IBM: Disties Will Sell Storage

By doing so, IBM also hopes to expand its partner base to include solution providers that have yet to work with the vendor, as well as increase its SMB storage business, company executives said.

IBM solution providers must be certified to sell storage, but open distribution will help the vendor target new solution providers that don't want to invest in the certification process, said Jens Tiedemann, director of distribution channels at IBM. "We want to serve non-IBM-platform customers. We think there is an opportunity for non-IBM resellers in the tape area."

IBM's move is part of a trend in which vendors that once sold direct to partners or end users start looking at distributors and solution providers, said Roy Appelbaum, Tech Data vice president and general manager of networking and high-end storage technologies. "As storage apps become a hotter technological issue, manufacturers recognize a way to reach a wider audience is through the channel."

Ingram Micro is expanding its line card to meet the expected demand for storage solutions in 2002 and has been approached by several vendors, said Kelly Harvey, business unit director of the Technical Products Division. The distributor also added to its help desk a dedicated storage technician, she said.

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Bell Micro's strategy has been to provide backroom capability and support to its SMB solution providers, said Phil Roussey, executive vice president of marketing at the company.

SCOTT CAMPBELL and MIKE CRUZ contributed to this story.