Hitachi Data Systems Adds Specializations To Channel Program

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) this week enhanced its Hitachi TrueNorth partner program with the addition of specializations aimed at helping partners work with customers to provide more value-added services.

HDS also added new training opportunities and improved the available of marketing support for partners, said Mike Walkey, senior vice president of global partners and alliances for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor.

HDS is making four core changes to its TrueNorth program focused on expanding the vendor's overall services capabilities through its solution providers, Walkey said.

"This is a broad initiative on our part to take our intellectual property to our partners," he said.

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The primary change is the introduction of a new series of four specializations aimed at helping partners provide customized services and solutions to customers.

The first is a virtualization services specialization to help partners better understand customers' storage virtualization challenges and how to utilize the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) to address them. Partners could install VSP in the past, but the new specialization gives them the ability to build storage pools using the technology, Walkey said.

The second is a migration services specialization to help partners provide customers with the ability to take advantage of virtual and tiered storage to help them migrate data between multiple heterogeneous storage systems.

"This is the biggest part of our services business," Walkey said. "We'll provide partners with the same training our own people get."

Third is a file and content services specialization to help customers use HDS technology to identify, design, and implement storage solutions for unstructured data.

The fourth is an application specialization to help partners take advantage of the three new services specializations when working with applications from such vendors as Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Symantec, VMware, and others.

A big part of that application specialization will revolve around the VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration, or VAAI, an API from VMware which allows virtual machine backups to be managed from a central location without requiring backup agents inside each virtual machine.

"We are the first, maybe the only, storage vendor to support VAAI," Walkey said. "Most of our partners are also VMware certified, and can use VAAI to add value to customers' virtualized infrastructures."

In addition to the specializations, HDS this week also expanded its scholarship program for partners' sales, pre-sales, and technical personnel by either funding their training or helping them find ways to fund it. Walkey said HDS charged partners for such training in the past.

HDS also introduced a new Global Marketing Bureau, which is a Web content syndication and lead generation campaign creating tool.

The company also introduced a new Web-based portal with software, firmware, and manuals to help support their help desk, call center, and technical support activities, he said.

"We're trying to improve our partners' business and leverage our technology and tools, and package them to help our partners drive business," he said.

Solution providers in general are moving more and more towards becoming subject matter experts, and getting specialized is a big part of that move, said Dave Cerniglia, president of Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and long-term HDS partner.

"For small regional VARs who want to have a broad reach, they want specializations," Cerniglia said. "If a question comes up about a VAR's capabilities, the customer may go to someone else. So lack of specialization is a barrier to entry for partners."

Next: Bringing Value To Customers

Regardless of which vendors are in a solution provider's line card, the solution providers need to get certified and specialized so that they can talk to customers and vendors about solutions and not just selling products, Cerniglia said.

"We will get those specializations," he said. "We want to get them. One of the things we've learned over time as we started out as a small company and then grew our business is, we need to bring value to customers. And as we build our value, customers learn to lean more on us than on the manufacturers."