Storage sparkles

Demand for storage solutions continues to rise in the Middle East. Channel Middle East embarked on a whistle stop tour of the top names in the storage sector to find out more.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  March 31, 2004

Driving demand|~|QaisGharaibeh7.jpg.jpg|~|Qais Gharaibeh, partner sales manager at EMC Middle East|~|Storage has come a long way since the days of simple tape back-up. Data is vital and storage systems are designed to preserve and protect this precious resource. Ashraf Helmy, marketing manager, network storage solutions at HP Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean; Ancel Fernandes, executive vice-president at storage integrator STME; Sam Tayan, regional manager, Middle East and North Africa at Veritas, Katie Spurgeon the new Middle East channel manager at Veritas, and Qais Gharaibeh, partner sales manager at EMC Middle East lined up to provide the expertise on market developments.

CME: Is demand for storage solutions rising across the Middle East? If so, what are the main factors actually driving that growth?

ASHRAF HELMY: Storage is one of the major target markets for growth for HP in the region. HP is working closely with its partners to deliver storage solutions combining HP's product portfolio with their application and systems expertise. What we have put together are complete solutions that can be adapted to fit any customer requirement from the largest enterprise right down to SMBs. The CxOs and IT managers are looking ever more closely at the need for data security. They have started to realise that data is critical to their business and have embarked on storage consolidation and disaster recovery projects. At the same time as these systems are put in, the architecture needs to remain flexible enough to accommodate future growth.

ANCEL FERNANDES: Changing business needs are the main drivers behind the increased demand for storage solutions in the Middle East. Organisations are deploying more applications, and data is almost doubling annually - in the case of some larger enterprises, data can double every six months.

SAM TAYAN: The answer is yes; I see demand rising significantly for the solutions that we offer. The reasons include increased awareness of high availability, backup and performance — all the elements that exist in our vision. People want to get more from their assets. They want them to perform better and be better managed. We have also found a significant uptake in storage consultancy. People come to us and say we need your knowledge and experience.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: The storage solutions market is growing in the Middle East based on the increasing awareness of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). With the increasing education in the market about the importance of managing data more cost effectively, end-users are driving demand. EMC is putting a lot of emphasis on ILM — a strategy, not a product, that's designed to help you get the maximum value from your information, at the lowest total cost, at every point in its lifecycle.

CME: Are storage solutions hardware-led, software-led or services-led sales?

ASHRAF HELMY: A storage solution must contain all three elements: hardware, software and services. In some cases the vendor may be in a position to provide the complete offering. At other times a systems integrator may bring together hardware from one vendor, software from another and complete the offering with its own professional services.

ANCEL FERNANDES: Storage solution sales are a combination of hardware, software and networked storage. The solution is designed to meet a customer's operational and business needs and is a key aspect of the solution sale. Implementation experience and expertise and 24x7 support is crucial, and there are not many storage systems integrators in the region, besides STME, who can design, implement and support a complete storage infrastructure solution.

SAM TAYAN: It is a ‘needs’ and a ‘requirements’ led sale. In today’s market — even though Veritas is a software company — we go in selling a solution that is often led by services or consulting. I don't think today's market is a product-led sale and we prefer the consulting approach. We're relatively unique inasmuch as Veritas is wholly heterogeneous and has no hardware agenda. We can take a step back and work with customers to look at their hardware framework and identify what's best for them. Veritas has alliances with a large number of hardware vendors, which is a positive factor for our customers in terms of integration, reliability, proving and testing.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: The storage arena in the Middle East is always undergoing change and development, and a few years ago it would have been fair to say that EMC's business in the region was driven by demand for hardware solutions. However, in recent years the market has matured and business leaders have increasingly come to understand the importance of managing data. This increasing awareness has resulted in software and services now being responsible for generating a significant portion of our regional business. Currently, it is about an even split between hardware versus software and services.
||**||The channel's role|~|KatieSpurgeon2.jpg.jpg|~|Katie Spurgeon, channel manager at Veritas Middle East|~|CME: What role does the channel have to play in the delivery of storage solutions?

ASHRAF HELMY: Partners play a critical role in the delivery of storage solutions and we are working together with them. HP does have a dedicated team to work with large accounts, but even here we often bring in resources from our partner network.

ANCEL FERNANDES: Many storage vendors sell indirectly across the Middle East region, so their channel delivers both market reach and geographic coverage.

SAM TAYAN: It varies across the spectrum from entry level to enterprise products. The channel's role at entry level is about demand fulfilment, availability and marketing. At the high-end the role of the channel is linked to systems integration and adding value in terms of account ownership, support, working on a risk/reward basis and providing turnkey solution delivery. Channels allow Veritas to grow its business in a way that may not be linear to the number of people we have in the Middle East — the channel lets us grow ahead of that rate.

KATIE SPURGEON: The channel owns the relationship with the customer allowing us to focus on the commercial side of the business. Veritas has a two-tier channel structure in place in the region. For training, it is the distributors that own the relationship with the resellers. We do not have dedicated reseller account managers inside Veritas Middle East as yet but may introduce them at some point. Distributors relay messages and support strong resellers to do their own marketing campaigns. Together, we can educate them on how to sell storage solutions from a business perspective.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: The channel is integral to EMC's business in the Middle East. We rely on our partners to inform us about market trends, and what regional end-users require from a business perspective. Additionally, we depend on our channel partners to educate the end-users about what we can offer them to effectively manage growing levels of data in their organisations.

CME: Why should channel partners invest in building up the skills necessary to sell storage solutions?

ASHRAF HELMY: For HP, one of the business requirements we ask for from channel partners in the storage arena is that they acquire specialist storage certification. This puts them in a position whereby they can go out to the customer and articulate the benefits of investing in storage solutions. Almost 90% of partners who could sell storage solutions in the Middle East have expressed an interest in investing in the necessary competencies and certification required to work with HP in this particular area.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: In the Middle East, storage is among the most robust areas of technology spending. Based on the strong market demand that exists in the region for storage solutions, it really is in the best interest of partners to build up their skills. By learning about the latest technology and solution developments, the partners are able to position themselves better to win a greater share of business deals.

CME: What sort of margin can storage resellers make?

ASHRAF HELMY: One of the strongest areas for partners to make margins is in high-end servers and storage. In order to start making sales in these areas, the channel needs to invest in developing its competencies. The payback for this investment is through the margins available.

SAM TAYAN: The margin resellers can make depends on the value they add. The more value you add, the more margin you can make. If partners have an element of geographical risk in their model, and invest in markets that may not be obvious to everyone, they would be able to achieve higher margins.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: Storage resellers are well placed in the Middle East to run healthy businesses based on the high level of demand that there is at the moment for storage solutions in the market.

CME: Is selling storage solutions a one-off engagement for an integrator or reseller?

ASHRAF HELMY: With storage solutions, the sky is the limit. This is definitely not just a one-off engagement for partners. The need for storage continues to grow and customers also see their capacity needs increasing. In some cases, the channel partner can take control of warranty services to the customer. There is also a continuous path of upgrades and developments that the partner can convey to the customer to ensure that a long-term relationship develops. Storage remains an evolving sector and the demands of many customers continue to grow.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: Absolutely not. Working in a 'one-off' manner is the fastest way to lose a deal. At EMC we work on the premise that the most effective way of winning business — and more importantly, keeping business — is to build up a solid and long-term relationship. In the storage sector, it is extremely important to offer support and forward-planning strategy because our customers are constantly looking at new services they want to provide — and correspondingly, data levels are always on the rise. At EMC, we have a large number of repeat customers, some of which we have worked with for more than a decade.
||**||Opportunity knocks|~|Ancel-Fernande.jpg|~|Ancel Fernandes, executive vice-president, STME|~|CME: What are the hallmarks of a successful storage reseller?

ANCEL FERNANDES: A successful storage systems integrator and reseller should have a first hand understanding of customers' business; a willingness to invest in the recruitment, training, and retention of skilled and experienced personnel; have a wide range of storage products to offer; invest in sufficient spares; and should ideally, be focused on offering storage solutions.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: Being able to recognise and then provide storage solutions that fit the needs of the end-user is the key component of being a successful storage reseller. At EMC, we ensure that our resellers are armed with the most up-to-date knowledge to ensure that we are positioned as leaders in the field.

KATIE SPURGEON: Veritas wants partners with the ability to grow their own business and create their own opportunities. We will develop them and provide them with the tools to do that. Margins are stronger in the Middle East than other regions of the world. Rather than selling one point product, we encourage partners to up sell and cross sell solutions and make even better margins.

CME: Which size company is showing the greatest interest in storage solutions and are there any particularly hot verticals in the market?

ANCEL FERNANDES: The SMB market is really heating up in terms of more affordable solutions and increased awareness. STME is seeing tremendous opportunities from regional manufacturers, broadcasters setting up within the Dubai Media City, some smaller government departments, smaller energy companies, and family-run trading conglomerates.

SAM TAYAN: It is pretty much across the board. Service providers are a major growth market as are telcos. Economies remain fairly robust in the region. I would single out telcos as a substantial growth area: subscriber numbers are growing, ARPU is growing, service introduction is growing and the whole industry dynamic is accelerating with deregulation on the agenda in Saudi Arabia and other places.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: At EMC, we have noted a rise in interest for storage solutions from the mid-market — what the industry leaders in this segment of the market are demanding are enterprise-level solutions in performance but tailored for SMB players. One of the booming vertical sectors at the moment in the Middle East is the telecom market. The telco industry in the Middle East and North Africa has grown steadily for the past few years based on country-wide upgrading of infrastructure, an increase in demand for GSM services and a rising need for Internet connections. Telcos are now in a position where they must store and access more vital data than ever before.

CME: Is growth and demand consistent across the Middle East or does it vary country-by-country?

ANCEL FERNANDES: Growth definitely varies across the region, with the strongest demand coming currently from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Countries like Qatar and Egypt are also showing strong potential.

CME: How intense is the competition between the various storage vendors operating in the Middle East?

ASHRAF HELMY: It is the strength of HP’s partner network that sets us apart from the competition in the region. We have some of the largest and most respected systems integrators in HP’s Middle East channel working closely with HP in the development and deployment of storage solutions.

QAIS GHARAIBEH: Just like any sector where the market is performing strongly, there are predictably a number of players who are vying for the lion's share of business. However, market expertise, industry experience, and the strength of our solutions have enabled EMC to stay at the forefront of the market. EMC likes to meets with decision-makers from around the region on a regular basis.
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