Driven by Internet and e-commerce-related activities, the storage market has grown so rapidly that it often now represents up to 80 per cent of the hardware costs in an enterprise solution, Compaq's local storage head claimed last week.
Stephen Bovis, Compaq's enterprise products group manager said that storage represents half of his group's revenues and that, like other vendors, its share is growing rapidly. He pointed to IDC research which shows it to be a clear leader in the space.
Revenues for Compaq were up 30 per cent in 1999 despite the fact that disk drive prices halved and capacity doubled during the same period, he said.
Bovis claimed the boom in storage to be a great opportunity for resellers, integrators and solutions developers because even as the products become more commoditised, the skills to build solutions become more specialised.
Compaq also has no illusions as to what is the best way to get storage products to market. "All our enterprise business goes through the channel," Bovis said.
"We have formed a separate storage division to really focus on storage." Bovis said, for enterprises, the concept of storage is changing from having "islands of information" to one that is much more focused on being able to access all the available data, all of the time.
"The focus is shifting to total availability," Bovis said. "It is no longer feasible to have systems going down at all and we are starting to move towards storage infrastructures such as network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs).
"The main opportunity for the channel in all this is in taking a leading role in the shifting importance of storage. Storage is moving towards being a solution, so there is tremendous opportunity for channels to value-add and partner with vendors and other channel companies," Bovis said.
While design and implementing the infrastructure is creating prospects today, Bovis predicted there would be a second wave of consulting services opportunities as organisations look for strategies to deal with their data.
"The next wave in storage demand will be for consulting," he said. This will include essentials such as health checks on the data and infrastructure, as well as managing and maintaining it. Bovis added that resellers wanting to operate in the storage space will need to skill up.
"As customers start viewing storage as a separate solution they will also execute it as a stand-alone purchase. Channels without specific storage skills will be at a disadvantage."
Surprisingly, Bovis also conceded customers are not particularly concerned about what badge the boxes carry or what drives they house. Standards and customer demand has forced the technology to head down platform and vendor neutral lines.
"The perceived value and buying motive for storage today is in the management tools, not the hardware," he said.
"Customers want much better control of their data and storage infrastructure. They know they have a lot of data to manage and that they will have twice as much in six months. Solutions need to be all about making better use of the data and creating storage pools," Bovis said.
Rather than threaten Compaq's dominant position in the market, the customer need for flexibility of hardware and software is in fact broadening market opportunities for its range of storage options, according to Bovis.
Compaq's reaction to increasing demand for its storage products has been to simplify its product numbering system and focus on the different requirements of small, medium and large organisations.