Enterprise Storage: Small World After All

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Enterprise storage vendors, which in the past year or so have unveiled initiatives aimed specifically at the burgeoning small-business storage market, have succeeded in building fast-growing, satisfied channels.

Solution providers that work with the small-business storage products and programs of companies such as EMC, Network Appliance and Hewlett-Packard said they have found customers ready to embrace products from these vendors, which in the past often ignored the smallest of small businesses.

And, in what appears to be a win-win situation, solution providers that sell products from more-established small-business storage vendors said competition from the newcomers can even help push more customers their way.

This new landscape has been very good for Eryck Bredy, president of Bredy Network Management, an Andover, Mass.-based solution provider specializing in network integration and storage for small businesses.

Small businesses have tried everything in terms of storage and have wound up with a hodgepodge of technologies on their network, Bredy said. "They've never thought about storage in a strategic way," he said. "Small-business VARs now have an opportunity to discuss this with small-business customers. We can show them how SANs can give them resilience."

Competing against the major vendors is a matter of educating small businesses about what solution providers can offer, Bredy said. "The small business knowing about EMC makes it easier for me to compete," he said. "The fact that EMC knocks on the client's door makes it easier for me to show what I can do."

Richard Brooks, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to work with EMC after the Hopkinton, Mass.-based vendor unveiled its small-business initiative.

"I wanted to ride the back of a 600-pound gorilla," said Brooks, vice president of sales at ACS Services, Easton, Mass. "It's easier to be recognized with the EMC name than with the ACS name."

The past year has seen EMC, NetApp and HP unveil storage arrays in the sub-$5,000 range along with related software and services, despite strong competition from established vendors such as Quantum, Nexsan, Adaptec, LeftHand Networks and Infortrend.

NetApp, for instance, has already signed up about 400 solution providers for its StoreVault small-business storage array, of which only 70 had previously worked with the vendor, said Sajai Krishnan, general manager and vice president of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company's StoreVault Business Unit. The rest were recruited through Tech Data.

"This is a game for the big boys," Krishnan said. "There are many, many small players who will do well in the market for some time. But it's hard for them to get 200 or more resellers, unless they're in retail."

Expanding into small business has helped NetApp and its partners reach into new customers, Krishnan said. "These are all customers we never had before, and never would have had because they can't afford $20,000 solutions," he said.

NEXT: EMC's small-business storage channel push

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