Flash Array Maker Nimbus Data Intros First Formal Channel Program

Nimbus Data Systems, one of the first storage vendors to bring Flash-based storage arrays to market, on Tuesday unveiled its first formal channel program as part of a move to make solution providers its primary route to market.

The FlashPoint Partner Program from Nimbus comes at a time when the Flash memory-based array business is really starting to grow, said Thomas Isakovich, CEO of the San Francisco-based storage vendor.

Nimbus last year unveiled a deal with eBay to supply that company with 100 TBs of Flash array capacity to support its virtualized environment, and has since expanded the relationship with the help of a solution provider Isakovich declined to name.

"2012 will be a time of big opportunities for the channel," he said. "Flash memory has been an elusive business for the channel for years. But after seeing our business grow in 2011, we can see this year to be the chance to grow our channel business."

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In 2011, almost every single customer came to Nimbus via a channel partner despite the company's lack of a formal channel program, Isakovich said. "Nimbus has no field sales organization," he said. "We have a marketing department which generates demand, but no field organization to close the business. So we depend on our channel partners."

Nimbus' FlashPoint program includes a favorable discount schedule and a substantial deal registration bonus for partners, Isakovich said. He declined to provide specific numbers. "But the difference is significant," he said. "Based on information from our partners, we're the cream of the crop."

In addition to its channel program, Nimbus offers one other benefit to partners that is relatively rare. "Nimbus has been a profitable company since 2009, and we did it without venture capital," Isakovich said. "The last thing a channel partner wants is to put in all that training just to see a partner go away or get acquired. We're profitable, and we're concerned about being around for a long time."

Nimbus is recruiting a fairly limited number of solution providers who can lead with the vendor when it comes time to talk to customers about high-performance Flash memory-based storage, Isakovich said. Such partners should have experience with technologies such as virtual desktops and servers, databases including Oracle and SQL, or high performance computing.

Nimbus is also talking to distributors, and has signed some agreement in Europe that have yet to be announced, Isakovich said. However, for now, it is working directly with solution providers, and can drop ship directly to customers if needed, he said.

Nimbus has turned out to be a very supportive partner for the channel, said Rich Kuhar, executive vice president of business development at Arkay Storage Solutions, an Akron, Ohio-based solution provider and partner of Nimbus.

Arkay started working with Nimbus last summer thanks to a close acquaintance working for the vendor, Kuhar said.

"We were looking for a new partner in this space, and had talks with a number of vendors," he said. "Nimbus was the only one who had the legs to do what we needed."

The fact that Nimbus until now had no formal channel program was not an issue for Arkay, Kuhar said.

"We specialize in bringing new technology to the market," he said. "Our engineers like to brag we don't sell anything we don't believe in. We've found that Nimbus offers high-performance, cost-effective Flash-based arrays. We've believe in solid-state storage, and have been selling it for 25 years."

Next: Isakovich Lists Nimbus' Advantages

There are several vendors of solid-state arrays, but Isakovich said Nimbus is different. The company's arrays support iSCSI, Fibre Channel, NFS, CIFS, and InfiniBand protocols equally instead of focusing on either SAN or NAS, and embeds all its software features including snapshots, replication, and encryption in its arrays.

"These are what make an enterprise system," he said. "Nimbus has it. The others don't. We make it easy to quote prices. There are no software license fees or SKUs. If a customer buys a box, it has all the software built in."

Nimbus has one other big advantage from many of its competitors, Isakovich said. "We're shipping," he said. "Most of the startups are not shipping yet."