HDS ready to break new ground

Storage solutions vendor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is limbering up for a recruitment drive as it seeks to expand its partner network throughout the Middle East. Channel Middle East asked Tony Ward — HDS’ newly-appointed regional sales director and the man charged with implementing the new strategy — to spell out his gameplan.

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By  Administrator Published  June 30, 2007

Storage solutions vendor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is limbering up for a recruitment drive as it seeks to expand its partner network throughout the Middle East. Channel Middle East asked Tony Ward - HDS' newly-appointed regional sales director and the man charged with implementing the new strategy - to spell out his gameplan.

Talk us through HDS' channel strategy in the Middle East. You operate a one-tier model, don't you?

Absolutely. We don't have a distribution model. It's purely a reseller model with STME, MDS, Naizak and Sun Microsystems. A lot of people call Sun a reseller - they're actually not, they are a global solutions partner and that is a global relationship covering only the high-end enterprise products. We have to look outside of that for global penetration and my big challenge is geographic coverage. The explosion of the business down here in construction and verticalisation of marketing, insurance, digital streaming media and the airline networks depicts that we need to look outside of that. We are keeping the channel policy the same - all we are going to do is extend the reach outside the UAE.

So one of your objectives is to engage with more resellers?

My first aim is to look at what we have today and the current self-sufficiency of our channel community. Once I have completed that exercise I will then go out and look for additional resellers and value added partners.

Is the development of your reseller channel only about gaining more geographic coverage?

No, it is a number of things. Firstly, it is to really move away from the commoditisation, especially in the high end. That means removing the commoditisation as a storage sell and moving over to an architectural solution sell. That's where we see the benefit because the resellers have the relationships in place in those areas today. In addition to that, we have the ability, through the reseller community, to make them self-sufficient on universal storage platform V (USPV), NAS, content archive platform, disaster recovery and all the key strategic business lines for HDS.

HDS has operated quite an enclosed partner network in the Middle East until now. What kind of qualities are you looking for in a new partner?

There are a number of ways to look at that, one of which is geographical coverage and another of which is sufficiency. We also have to look into the nitty gritty of that organisation and the sufficiency of the technical capability. This is not a commodity, off-the-shelf volume product. It is a solution sale talking about content archiving, NAS architecture, the USP V architecture and thin provisioning. We have to have an extension of Hitachi in the Middle East that can competently take that message to the marketplace as if they were Hitachi.

What is the optimum number of partners you are looking for?

If you dissect the Middle East into countries then it's around 18 regions if you take into account I have Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan too. I suppose in an ideal world the answer is 18, but it's not going to happen that way. But to be honest, there isn't really a finite number that I have in my mind that says, "I need 10 resellers to hit this figure."

Any plans to raid the partner community of your competitors to find new Middle East resellers?

It's a very credible question on the basis that if you take two of the resellers - and bear in mind one of them isn't Sun because that's a global partner - they were also two of our biggest competitors' partners in the region at the time they approached us. I don't think it's a case of a catch-all mentality because I don't think resellers are structured to have the mentality of having, for argument's sake, HP, IBM, EMC and Dell and then saying, "we are missing HDS, let's bring them in as well." That doesn't work because you then have a theoretically commoditised reseller channel and all they are going to do is sell on price.

What is HDS' verdict on the Saudi channel? It remains the region's biggest market, but you don't have an office there yet.

At the moment, Hitachi doesn't have a presence in Saudi but we do through our reseller community. Is it on management plan and annual operating plan? Yes. But it's not high on my to-do list because I want to get the local resellers and the geographical coverage done first. Saudi would not be a five-minute job - it would involve a lot of planning. The cost of investment and start-up costs to actually go and open in Saudi are quite high and we would have to absolutely make sure it is right.

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