StorageTek Looks To Channel To Recover Lost HP Tape Library Market


Storage Technology (StorageTek) is unveiling new products this week in a strategy to take back part of the market it lost when Hewlett-Packard dropped the vendor in favor of Quantum/ATL as HP's OEM tape library supplier.

At the same time, StorageTek is targeting customers who purchased its tape libraries through HP in the past few years with a series of rebates that solution providers can offer to their clients.

HP officials said in mid-July that the company will phase out sales of StorageTek enterprise-class tape arrays as a result of its acquisition of Compaq, and instead focus on the line of Quantum libraries it acquired with Compaq.

HP plans to continue to support the StorageTek libraries with new tape drives through the end of 2003, and to continue offering tech support for individual libraries for up to five years after the date of their sale to corporate clients.

Mark Heaton, vice president of global business development at StorageTek, said his company does not think customers want to change, and to back up his assertion, he said StorageTek plans to have a team of 20 people dedicated to going after HP customers this week.

"Customers tell us they don't want to go through switching costs," Heaton said. "We want them to work with us. This is a great opportunity for resellers and end users."

One tool StorageTek will offer through solution providers is a rebate of up to $45,000 for customers using HP, Compaq or Quantum/ATL tape libraries looking to purchase a new library or new tape drive technology, said Steve Cisowski, director of channel engagement at StorageTek.

"The rebates are a strong pull program," Cisowski said. "We will market them to users and give them to our partners as a tool to assist them to compete against Quantum/ATL."

StorageTek also offers such clients service on their products without the need to go through HP, and will assist with all upgrades to existing equipment, said Heaton.

StorageTek currently has between 300 and 400 solution providers in the United States and works through distributors such as Tech Data, Bell Microproducts, GE Access and Avnet, said Cisowski. The company will use the new rebates and other promotions aimed at HP's customers to increase the number of channel partners, he said.

"This is a way for us to engage the indirect channel more than in the past," Cisowski said. "We know this is an opportunity for us to broaden our business in the channel. . . . But we're not going on a recruitment binge."

Solution providers said they doubt the effectiveness of programs to convince HP's customers to work with StorageTek or its channel partners.

Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based HP and StorageTek solution provider, said that with SuperDLT and other technology expanding in terms of capacity at a fast rate, customers looking to upgrade might as well get a new library, which cuts incentive to switch to StorageTek.

Even though HP has announced end of life for its StorageTek libraries, it has committed to support them for at least five years, Baldwin said. "Even if a customer just bought one, these things have a two to three year upgrade cycle. So they might as well upgrade to the latest technology. . . . Even if StorageTek has a more aggressive price, it might not make a difference."

Getting customers to switch will be tough, said Bill Evers, president of MDL, a Woodinville, Wash.-based HP and StorageTek solution provider. "HP is very much into tying services with its products," Evers said. "When customers buy products, they like that arrangement."

A certain number of customers will switch, said Evers, depending on HP's service. "HP has cut back on a lot of its service technicians recently, and this could hurt them," he said. "HP's spread a little thin now."

On Monday, StorageTek introduced its latest tape drive. The T9994B drive is aimed at heavy-duty enterprise users, with a native data transfer rate of up to 30 Mbytes per second, or up to 252 Gbytes per hour compressed. Native capacity per cartridge is 200 Gbytes. With a 2.0-Gbps Fibre Channel interface, the drive lists for $39,500.

On Tuesday, the company is expected to unveil its D280 hard-drive array, the latest product from StorageTek's long-term OEM relationship with LSI Logic Storage Systems.

The D280 offers 2.0-Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity, capacity of up to 32 Tbytes and management features such as snapshot copy and remote volume mirroring.