Flash – what the channel needs to know

In the first of a series of articles Philippe Fossé, vice president of EMEA Channels, EMC, shares some thoughts about flash

Distribution is in the midst of one of the most turbulent times in its history. Seemingly out of nowhere the once simple world of hardware resale has been turned on its head and partner organisations have had to get to grips with new technologies and new business drivers. 

Flash is a prime example of this trend. It has been with us in an enterprise context since 2008 but there still a certain amount of mystery regarding the IT department understanding how best to leverage flash for varying workloads. A better understanding of where flash best fits is needed as it represents an important source of revenue for partner organisations. 

Furthermore, gaining a foothold with customers in flash will establish a foundation for future opportunities The sooner that partners engage with flash and incorporate it into  their sales strategy, the sooner they can enjoy the fruits of what will be a particularly bountiful orchard which will also help maintain key relationships

Why partners should get excited by flash

When it comes to the profitability of flash, there is great opportunity.  Industry projections show a fast growing market with tremendous potential. Flash has use cases for many applications, and for partners this is a huge potential market (i.e. all of their existing and future accounts). Having customers understand the best use cases for flash, and how to utilise it properly in their environments will pay great benefit.  As they see the advantages flash brings to their most demanding applications, they will begin to find new use cases where it can also deliver as yet unknown benefits.  This journey will uncover even more demand for flash.

The interest in flash is, in short, hot. It offers partners with a highly effective opportunity to engage and educate customers. This leads to enhancing the value to the customer and increasing the overall deal value, thus increasing the performance and availability of the business applications that are delivered as a core part of the wider solutions wrap. To fully realise the potential of the flash market however, there are a number of considerations that partners must bear in mind.

Not all flash is created equal…

When it comes to flash, not all offerings are the same. Depending on the workload requirements) the type of flash solution that can address a particular need may vary. For example, upgrading an existing system with flash drives may be a perfectly acceptable solution.  On the other hand, an all-flash-array architected from the ground up to take full advantage of this new technology, with built in data services like compression, deduplication and writable snapshots, may be the right solution to help a business bring a new application online faster, improve the desktop clients experience, or deliver real-time analytics on customer purchases in a retail environment, all more affordably than ever before.  

This is the opportunity that a partner has before it. To help its customers fully comprehend how this revolutionary technology can change a business a trusted partner is closest to the end customer and in the best position to understand their business needs. Flash represents a perfect opportunity for partner organisations to fulfil their role as trusted advisors and consultants, helping to optimise their customers’ IT infrastructures. By so doing, resellers will win the long-term loyalty of customers and be able to enjoy ongoing revenues as they lead the customer through each stage of their flash journey.

But what, exactly, should resellers be telling their customers about flash?

Selling-in flash

Firstly, partner organisations need to make it absolutely clear to their customers that flash drives, like traditional spinning hard disk drives are, essentially, a commodity. It is the intelligent software and solutions that accompany flash that make it worth investing in. The reseller can provide huge value-add by evaluating the flash solutions on offer from vendors and presenting to customers those with the most advanced – and relevant – software wraps. Partners should also proactively seek out vendors that can offer one-stop-shops for every conceivable flash use case. Not only can this approach lead to price economies associated with dealing with just one partner, but can lead to deeper levels of collaboration when it comes to sales.

Secondly, partners need to ask the right questions of their customers to understand the real business need. Often, customers will also need to be educated that these questions are the right ones to be asking – such is the size of the perception gap around flash deployments. For example, customers should be made aware that flash is not really about storage; it is actually about the workload. The channel organisation’s job is to take the workload requirements and to translate these into the right flash solution.

At this stage the important questions to ask include: does the customer need high application performance, such as with online transaction processes; do they need high capacity such as with online archiving; do they need advanced data services such as replication and snapshot to ensure the value of their data; or will simple data services, such as archiving, suffice? The workloads drive the right technology choices based on business need and budget and it is here that channel organisations should focus on delivering value.

Getting the technology focus right

When it comes to really succeeding in the flash market, partners need to ensure they have the right technology focus. In the short term the number one priority for partners is flash-optimised hybrid arrays.

Some businesses will have more performance-hungry workloads however, and in such instances partners should consider whether an all-flash array is a more appropriate solution. All-flash is ideal for workloads that require sub 0.5 millisecond response times for applications such as VDI and High Performance Database. There are a number of different ways that all-flash can be deployed however, and it is critical that the channel organisation works with their vendor to gain a complete understanding of the range of options available.

Realising the flash opportunity

Despite the number of technology options available, the sales proposition behind flash is actually relatively simple. It is about being able to map the customer’s solution workload and effectively deliver against it. The good news for partners is that this approach not only delivers the best solution set to customer but is also means that partners can enjoy multiple sales. Often, for example, customers will require different array approaches to solve various business problems, meaning that partners can enjoy multiple flash sales to the same account. Simply by listening to the customer and understanding their requirements in terms of applications, use case, workload and deployment scenario the right flash solution will become immediately obvious, as too will the customer benefits following deployment.

Read more on Data Storage Hardware

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