Storage, and all it encompasses, is changing in New Zealand. From the rise of flash to the splashing of enterprise cash, the market of today is in a state of flux.
But if the world has indeed gone crazy, and if storage vendors are in fact the “cool guys in the room”, what next for the Kiwi channel partner?
“Resellers better be the glue,” says Richard Prowse, Business Manager of Storage Platforms, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “and they better be strong glue because it’s critical as a brokerage.”
In short, a changing storage market demands a new partner power play - a strategy built on brokerage and wrapped in reseller value.
For Prowse, the successful storage partner of today expands value-added offerings, develops new revenue opportunities and broadens integration expertise.
Along the way, they access technology and training programs to serve specialised vertical markets, such as finance, healthcare or government.
The end game for this new approach is a partnership built on customer dependence, a dependence on the reseller to deliver as the first port of call in New Zealand.
In the words of Chris Martin and Coldplay, nobody said it was easy, but in speaking as a chief benefactor of a storage mind shift, Jon Waite, Chief Technology Officer, Computer Concepts Limited, recognises the ongoing value.
“No matter what the question is,” he explains, “if customers pick up the phone and ask you it first, that’s gold.”
Arriving at the state of reseller Nirvana however requires a tailored approach that ensures resellers are not simply wanted, rather needed as a critical enabler of business growth.
“The resellers who are succeeding are the resellers who are building a service,” observes Sam Taylor, Vendor Business Manager, Westcon. “They’re not just about buying some storage and passing it onto the customer, they’re building services to deliver value instead.
“Some in New Zealand are doing this through innovation within the cloud for example, but the key change shift has been around partners understanding what’s happening in the market, knowing what storage vendors are doing and how to find different ways to provide cost-effective services.”
Taylor believes that while innovation is rife in certain segments of the channel, with “lots of ideas coming to the table”, the key challenge for the reseller community remains centred around trying to find the ideas that work on both sides of the fence.
“From a distribution perspective, it comes back to flexibility,” Taylor adds. “And making sure that whatever partners stand up as-a-service, it can be transitioned as the market changes.”
Built around a pragmatic approach to business, partners that steer customers away from vendor lock-in and silos will be better placed to react to the ever-changing storage market, according to Taylor, without having to pay huge amounts of money to get off technologies that are fast approaching expiry.
“The market is filling up with new resellers who we’ve never seen before,” Taylor adds. “They tend to be cloud players who don’t need to invest too much and can just give it a go.
“They can wrap services around a solution and if it all goes wrong, they can simply turn it off and walk away and try something else.”
But for every market disrupter, remains a victim of disruption. That being the smaller resellers across the country, those running lifestyle businesses with a small customer base and a straightforward approach to the market.
“New Zealand is full of smaller resellers who just want to look after their three or four customers, and they frankly don’t care about changing,” adds James Arnold, Country Manager, Dell, in bringing in the wider reseller community across the country.
“That’s fine,” counters Taylor, “but what happens when those three customers do care? The moment they look at the market and decide to make some changes, then this reseller is in trouble and that’s an inevitability.”
In alluding back to Prowse’s earlier point, and the need to be the glue between the customer and vendor, Craig Murphy, HP Alliance Manager, Dimension Data, says the need to explore the services route for resellers is a reaction to the fluctuating storage market.
Dimension Data, as a global ICT giant operating in New Zealand, has in particular made a series of acquisitions around consultancy, which Murphy believes is indicative of the changing role of the partner.
“You absolutely still need the high-level pitch but now partners must be mindful of the nature of businesses and how they operate,” he adds. “From a reseller perspective, the CIO used to be the pinnacle of our call cycle, but this is changing.
“Of course they are absolutely still valid, but partners should now also be mindful of marketing for example. The marketing department is driving the business to market and it provides partners with different routes to explore.
“There’s little value in isolating the IT guys as it’s crucial to be mindful of the wider business.”
Looking ahead, Murphy believes the 2016 storage partner will operate in a “hyper-competitive” market in New Zealand, a market competing for margins across industries and verticals - “everyone is competing harder and faster.”
“As a reseller,” Murphy adds, “it’s about working pragmatically working with the IT department, and looking towards the marketing team to drive an idea. And consultancy ties into this role.”
The art of consultancy isn’t new within the channel. Whether it be cloud, mobility or security as examples, the wider consensus remains that consultation will triumph over traditional methods, with storage no different in that respect.
But the art of “staying sticky”, as Arron Patterson, Chief Technology Officer, EMC puts it, is what will separate the leaders from the laggards throughout the channel market, as resellers continue to react and revaluate their position within the industry.
“Look across New Zealand, small businesses consisting of accountants, architects, farmers etc essentially have an unlimited choice for services to run their business,” Patterson adds. “Now, they can either spend every working hour of every working day analysing those options, or they can rely on a trusted business partner that understands their business and their niche.
“That’s how partners can stay sticky.”
With a raft of storage vendors flooding the market, from the traditional big players to the upcoming start-up style competitors, the average reseller is not short of storage choice.
That however, could be used as an advantage.
“It’s not an easy journey as a business to go from nothing to everything so resellers can play a vital role is advising customers on what technology best serves their business.”
But with distributors and vendors advising partners to head down the services path - and to add a consultancy string to their bow - where’s the reseller value? Is it more work and more risk, but for less money?