As a channel opportunity, the integration of storage solutions into enterprise IT infrastructures is set to take the same rapid expansion path network integration enjoyed during the late last decade, a pioneering storage-focused reseller claimed last week.
Ken Wood, marketing and sales director for storage solutions integrator EnStor, told ARN the market niche it exploited took a while to get moving but 20 months down the track is starting to reap the benefits as expertise and reputation grows. The company now employs seven people, is signing `half million- dollar contracts' and boasts a 200 per cent per annum growth curve.
`Storage is progressing the way networking developed 10-12 years ago,' Wood said. `It is rapidly becoming more complex and there are more software and hardware components involved.
`It has progressed past the point where even the largest of organisations can provide all the skills in-house to do their storage so they have to bring in a third party to put their systems together and achieve service-level targets.
According to Wood, EnStor's customers are looking for someone who can `mask a lot of the technical complexity' while building a solution with the right balance of budgetary, availability and implementation targets.
`In general that means bringing in an integrator, as it does with networking,' he said.
With its target market being the high-end space, or `Australia's top 1000 enterprises [a minimum of 500 users]' as Wood described it, EnStor is claiming there is little competition but vast opportunity in the space.
`There are a number of resellers working quite successfully at the low end but we are somewhat insulated because we focus on the high end,' Wood said. `I haven't really seen too many people doing what we are doing.
`At the high end, we tend to do longer projects that involve larger consulting components.'
Wood explained that some of the low-end solutions are easy enough for customers to handle themselves, but once you get into bigger projects, customers need serious assessment, design, implementation and testing procedures. In addition to these, training and documentation helps make lucrative services a major component of the sale.
`What our customers are all after is business continuance,' Wood said. `They want their systems to stay up and their data to be available, no matter what. That can be everything from data recovery to cluster building. Getting data back within 10 minutes, instead of four hours, is critical to them as is almost 100 per cent availability. They don't want their systems to ever go down.'
With both analysts and vendors talking up the storage market as the great channel opportunity of the early noughties, Wood agreed it offered resellers the chance to get into a services-based business model, but he also added a note of caution.
`It is not a given that everybody can make money out of storage, but the vendors are quite right in saying that storage is taking off in a big way,' he said.
`All the Internet servers are a key driver behind this and customers just can't shut down their systems at 6pm when their staff go home. That is when someone on the other side of the world is trying to do business with them. High availability is the key buying motive.'
Incidentally, if you are still sceptical about the value of having an Internet presence, Wood related a tale of the $250,000 sale EnStor secured from what is basically a `brochureware' Web site.
`It was a cold enquiry from someone who was just searching the Web looking for a solution to a particular problem they had,' Wood said. `It turned into a nice piece of business for us and highlighted that we were doing something quite unique.'