IBM Taps Major Disties To Expand Storage Reach

NAS SAN storage

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., has signed agreements with Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif.; Tech Data, Clearwater, Fla.; and Synnex, Fremont, Calif. under which the three will distribute the N Series products and work with IBM to recruit new solution providers to the line.

IBM's N Series includes nearly the entire hardware appliance line of NAS and SAN appliances from Network Appliance, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Under an OEM agreement the two vendors signed in 2005, IBM is rebranding nearly the entire line of NetApp SAN and NAS appliances and software for its direct and indirect sales channels.

IBM currently distributes its N Series products through Arrow Electronics, Englewood, Colo., and Avnet Technology Solutions, Tempe, Ariz.

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John Hamano, Americas brand sales executive at IBM, said the three broad line distributors have a long-time heritage in the Wintel space, and so they can make the line available to a wider range of solution providers than before.

The signing of the new broad line distributors should not impact IBM's relationship with Arrow and Avnet, Hamano said. "We're keeping all the same requirements for selling as we move to broad line distribution," he said. "Solution providers have the same certification and education requirements with broad line distributors as with value distributors."

Instead, IBM is looking for the new distribution agreements to increase its incremental business for the N Series, Hamano said. For one thing, IBM has a closed distribution model. "We have directed Ingram Micro, Tech Data, and Synnex to bring in new solution providers," he said. "This is incremental business for us. New distributors cannot recruit partners who work with existing distributors. If the partners want to change, they can, but they have to wait for a particular time."

Joe Vaught, executive vice president and COO at PCPC Direct, a Houston-based IBM solution provider, called the new distribution agreements a smart move for IBM. "IBM storage, I'm not sure if they made their numbers last year," Vaught said. "I didn't make mine."

IBM has not really done well with the N Series, Vaught said. "The line hasn't met expectations," he said. "IBM still has holes in its storage product line. This will help IBM immensely. Ingram Micro is not just a distributor. They have a marketing force."

Hamano waved off any notion that IBM was not doing well with its N Series products, calling the line IBM's fastest-growing storage product line. A recent IDC report had IBM's NAS sales, which come exclusively from the products OEMed from NetApp, growing 1,200 percent year over year, although he admitted it was from a small base.

Brian McCarthy, president and owner of Sencilo Solutions, a Lake Mary, Fla.-based NetApp solution provider, is not as excited about the new distribution agreement. NetApp has a history of helping IBM and its solution providers win deals that could have gone to NetApp partners instead, McCarthy said. "NetApp allows their reps to partner with IBM," he said. "When I go to register a deal, NetApp may decline it. And if I ask why, they might say they're working the deal with IBM."

IBM's new distribution deal will only hurt NetApp partners, McCarthy said. "IBM has been very predatory with pricing," he said.