Storage channel has to embrace change

One of the main conclusions from a MicroScope storage roundtable is that the storage channel is being forced to navigate changes to the reseller and vendor communities

The phrase that nobody got fired for buying the established brand is as old as the industry but it is being challenged more aggressively by rival vendors more than ever before in the storage market.

Some of the giants in the storage world have managed to dominate the market for years but customers facing strains on budgets and looking to trim costs but maintain innovation are becoming more willing to seek alternatives.

At a recent MicroScope storage roundtable, research from TechTarget was shared with a panel of vendors that indicated that when it came to customers assessing vendors they were much more open minded than in the past.

The list of potential brands that users would consider had widened dramatically since 2014 and there were many more firms being looked at for the first time by customers. Some of those firms that were making in-roads included Pure Storage, Nimbus, Violin Memory, SolidFire, Scale Computing SimpliVity and Infortrend with customers indicating that they had either already purchased from those vendors or would do over the course of the rest of this year.

“The fact there are 10 additional vendors being considered by customers compared to the previous year, it again reinforces the breakdown of the historical storage oligopoly and the proliferation and genuine adoption of new vendors,” said Max Gill, sales director for SI and financial services at Atlantis Computing.

The challenge for the channel is to make sure that they have the right relationships and are open minded about which solution they pitch to the customer.

“We have found that these channel partners that have built their business on the oligopoly of a small number of vendors, are beholden and dependent on them and they are the ones who are struggling now to offer their customers something different because they are reliant on that revenue stream,” added Gill.

Some of the challengers are already seeing success against established players and that is taking share and revenue away from the traditional brands.

“Some of the new players are taking revenue out of the back pockets of established vendors,” said Jacco van Achterberg, sales director EMEA at Cloudian.

As well as keeping an eye on a widening vendor community the other challenge for some of the established storage channel players is to monitor their own competition.

Changes to the market are allowing some new entrants to champion alternatives to the established mainstream and some vendors have seen the make-up of their partner communities changing in response to that trend.

“We are seeing a whole new category of channel partners that weren’t in the storage space but were i9n the virtualisation or the software space and are now saying actually all these areas here meet out skill set,” said Gill.

“We have more than 100 VARs across EMEA and I would say around 70% are non-traditional storage players,” he added.

Others at the roundtable event agreed that the pressure on their channel partners had increased as they had to navigate the changing market landscape and provide customers with advice about the latest technology, including virtualisation and software-defined storage.

“Our partners can’t just deal with one vendor and they have to manage all this stuff and that’s a tough place to be when you have to thread all the complex stuff together,” said David Histon head of storage at Fujitsu.

Read the June MicroScope ezine to get a full transcript from the roundtable and get the views of vendors on cloud storage, shadow IT and just what the channel should be doing to succeed.

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