Microsoft Set To Recruit Storage Integrators

The software giant is in the midst of building a storage partner "ecosystem" including OEMs, storage integrators, and white box builders specializing in storage, said Charles Stevens, corporate vice president of sales and marketing for Microsoft's Enterprise Storage Division. Microsoft has also put together a separate technical sales team that will train and assist partners to close storage deals, said Stevens.

Microsoft already has a stable of 35 OEM partners for its Windows Storage Server product including deals with EMC, Dell, and Hewlett Packard. "Now that we've got the OEMs, we're in the mode of building a channel," said Stevens.

Microsoft is planning to work with distributors including Tech Data, Avnet and Bell Micro to recruit storage solution providers, said Stevens. The company plans to recruit about 200 system builders who are selling preconfigured storage systems. After that, Microsoft will work on enabling a broader set of partners to focus on the storage opportunity, said Stevens.

The stricter regulatory environment, including the Sarbanes-Oxley act, requires companies to keep e-mail, instant messages and other data for at least six years is opening up huge opportunities for storage integrators, said Stevens.

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As for storage software product development plans, Stevens said Microsoft is aiming to develop "innovative" products slated to be delivered in one to two years that will not compete with Microsoft partners such as EMC and Veritas.

"We're not going to compete with SANs but make SANs more storage friendly," he said. One area Microsoft is focusing on is data lifecycle management storage software, he said. "We've got to change the algorythms to protect SQL Server or Exchange," Stevens said. For example, he said, Microsoft may eventually be able to provide functionality that would allow a user to quickly recover all his or her mail for a certain period of time. "We're looking at building something smart that would enable you to to selectively recover what you want without having to go through IT," said Stevens.

Microsoft estimates that only 20 percent of small businesses have backup or data protection, said Stevens, pointing to the untapped market as a "huge opportunity" for partners. "If a small business loses its data, they are out of business," he said. "Our goal is to enable system builders to provide storage data protection for all those small businesses."

There is also a huge opportunity for Microsoft Business Solutions partners selling Great Plains and Navision solutions to include storage backup business continuity functionality as part of each sale, said Stevens. "I would never sell an application without data protection," he said.

The Enterprise Storage Division currently has about 200 employees and is expected to double in the next several years, said Stevens. Overall, Microsoft has several thousand developers working on storage related software, said Stevens.

Among the huge untapped opportunities for storage solution providers is consolidate the dozens of Novell NetWare file and print servers with some companies to storage servers, providing dramatic immediate return on investment for clients, said Stevens.