"Get into storage," the hype says and that is just what distributors are doing. It's been one of the catch cries of vendors and analysts for a while now and many have followed the advice but still there appears to be a situation where demand for the value-added skills required heavily outweighs supply.
Earlier this month, value distributor Express Data made its play for a slice of the market announcing that a new vendor partnership with Quantum would be the launch pad of an expansion into storage solutions.
Late last year Victorian-based distributor Westan launched its new storage division with a determination to increase the knowledge base within resellers thus broadening the number selling storage solutions.
So this begs the questions; "How big is the storage market?" and "Is it really the saviour of the channel?"
In answer to the first question, IDC's Asia Pacific director of storage research, Graham Penn, said storage was very big.
"It is a huge market," Penn said. "Nobody is doing research that covers the whole spectrum but when you cover everything from high-end disk storage to mid-range NAS boxes into individual hard disk drives, optical disk drives and the media, it is more than $2 billion a year [in Australia]."
However, Penn is not so sure that storage is the saviour of the channel, although he said that "there is always a need for people that add more value".
He sees the major challenge as being how to get people to pay for the services needed to satisfy the true need of end users.
"Very clearly there is an opportunity for the channel in selling storage solutions but people are going to have identify that opportunity as a business process," Penn said. "It is not just a hardware and software sale. There is often a consulting service required so they have to get revenue from that task of solving business issues."
Manager of Westan's new storage division, Philip Jackson, agreed: "To enter the storage market you have to have a good understanding of business needs. To be successful you have to understand what is driving demand. The need to secure, manage and access increasing amounts of data in everyday business is what is driving demand.
"The storage market is definitely under-rated. Being successful at the distributor or the reseller level is not just about having a warehouse full of product. You have to invest in the market and deliver solutions which introduce real business benefits to the end users."
Director of advanced storage systems at distributor Lan1, John Wellar, said there was "a tremendous number of business drivers" creating overwhelming demand. This gave rise to a situation where there were not enough skills to satisfy that demand.
"We lack people with the experience and knowledge in data storage," Wellar said. "It is not just a technical solution. There are plenty of people who have the technical knowledge but an understanding of the business issues behind the need for a storage solution is where we lack the expertise."
Wellar said that the best resellers of data storage solutions would identify the customer requirement and then engage the distributor to help translate that understanding of a business need into a technical solution.
For more on storage opportunities, see this week's issue of ARN.