Storing It All Up For You

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One of the longest-running debates in the channel revolves around whether today's storage vendors are really doing everything they can to leverage the solution provider community. If you walk through the corridors of IBM, EMC, Network Appliance, CA, Symantec, Seagate and a host of others, you'll get different takes on how the channel plays into their sales strategies. Some leverage it to the hilt. Some are more restrained. Others can't figure out the right formula to tap into all of the opportunity that's out there today.

Robert C. DeMarzo is VP/publisher of VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR.

On the flip side, solution providers, while eager to engage with vendors that have proven storage hardware and software solutions, have grown frustrated by the ones that focus on price and the ones that can't decide whether they want to make a deep commitment to the channel. That's the reason VARBusiness focused on storage as part of its State of Technology research.

Let's take a look at the key findings.

First, Seagate and Western Digital are front and center in the storage vendor ranks--primarily because of their high-end products and history with the channel. But if you ask me, neither company has really seized the opportunity to move upstream against the likes of EMC, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. They're not crafting a channel story around storage services and higher-margin solutions. It seems like a rather obvious opportunity, don't you think?

Second, solution providers are straightforward about what they want from their storage vendor partners, and it boils down to four things: great technical support, high-quality presales and postsales support, and a solid reputation in the channel. The next time a storage rep takes you to lunch, grill them on those four points and tell them to take the notes to their boss. And make sure they pick up the tab as remuneration for your valuable insight.

Third--and perhaps most important--the storage market is still hardware-focused, meaning that there's plenty of room for solution providers to capitalize on services and software. The average storage VAR is generating about half of its revenue from hardware, 20 percent or so from software and 27 percent from services. That translates into a huge opportunity for vendors to help solution providers exploit opportunities in such areas as backup, disaster recovery and storage management.

The Next Generation
Back in the 1960s (yes, I do have some vague memories of that decade), everyone talked about a generation gap. Songs and books were written about it, people were joined together because of it, and the concept colored much public thinking and debate.

I think our comfortable little corner of the world is about to go through a similar phase. Built upon the backs of an aging generation are thousands of VARs responsible for the success of many IT vendors. But what I'm seeing now is the entrance of a new generation to which few vendors are paying attention. I'm talking about young businesspeople whose ambitions include building the next billion-dollar VAR--and doing it their own way, with new rules and a different set of vendors.

I'll be writing about these individuals in the coming months, exploring who they are and what they want to get out of their careers in the channel. While the older generation may be content with maintaining a business it took them 20 years to build, this new generation will, for the most part, fuel the next 20 years of growth and innovation. The young guns in this crowd fall somewhere between the ages of 18 and 40, and I look forward to revealing a little bit about what makes them tick.

So, if you're under 40 and reading this, please shoot me an e-mail and tell me where you work and what drives you. I'd love to hear your story.

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