2012 Channel Champions: SATA Hard Drives

However, Seagate's win over rival Western Digital was by a thin margin, reflecting the mature technology and channels that characterize the SATA hard drive business.

Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder that partners with all the major hard drive vendors, said all the vendors have done a good job with the channel.

Indeed, in the quality and reliability criteria in the technical satisfaction rating, the only one where Seagate lost to Western Digital, it is impossible to distinguish between vendors because quality is a given, Kretzer said.

"I have one customer who says anything is OK by Seagate, another that says anything by Western Digital, and another that says anything by Hitachi," he said. "I could line up my tech guys and ask them, and not get any consensus."

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John Vossoughi, vice president of Americas sales and marketing and global channels for Seagate, said that performance is paramount.

"It's the ticket to entry," Vossoughi said. "What's really important is what we wrap around it in support and sales."

Seagate swept the ratings in the other two subcategories, with the highest scores in all of the nine criteria in support satisfaction and financial factors. Seagate has invested much in moving its partner program from a loyalty-based model to one that focuses on providing things like tech support and sales aids as the channel has evolved, Vossoughi said.

"In North America, distribution has changed from a broad-based model to one that is focused, on the one hand, on small and medium business, and on the other hand, on the value-added segment," he said. "And as distribution evolved, we evolved with it."