Making sense of storage

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) - a not-for-profit advanced storage and technology trade organisation - recently made a stop in the Middle East to talk shop with resellers, distributors and vendors. Channel Middle East caught up with chairman Juergen Arnold to ask what SNIA can do for the channel in the region.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  March 10, 2008

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) - a not-for-profit advanced storage and technology trade organisation - recently made a stop in the Middle East to talk shop with resellers, distributors and vendors. Channel Middle East caught up with chairman Juergen Arnold to ask what SNIA can do for the channel in the region.

How do you view the role of the storage channel in the Middle East and where does the Storage Networking Industry Association fit into that?

In terms of storage, the channel is the outlet in the Middle East as most of the companies do not distribute their products here directly. What is also important is that most channel members try to be vendor-neutral.

They are not acting as one outlet for one company, they want to be brand neutral, and this is where SNIA can help. We present vendor-neutral content for when the channel - consultants for example - want to be a trusted advisor to their customers.

This is where our education programmes and our certification programmes can help the channel. We have the professional vendor-neutral education and the certification, which will help the channel players to demonstrate their vendor neutrality.

This is just one of the classic advantages of how we can help the channel to increase their trust in front of the customer.

What strategies will SNIA be following over the course of 2008?

One of our key strategies is that we have moved away from just storage- and information-related topics.

This archive crisis is one of those things that is not only a storage topic, it is really an industry-wide information process topic. This is something that we have changed over the last year. We also have to adapt to market trends.

A good example of this is that we are covering the issue of green storage, and have launched the green storage initiative.

How would you compare the storage needs of the Middle East to other regions?

Thousands of new citizens move into the Middle East region everyday. There is a huge personal demand for data and this is very important here in the UAE.

It is also very important that the proper mobile and communications infrastructure is built, which is the foundation to serve the millions of end-users who are here and who are very sophisticated in terms of their storage desires.

Does the role of the storage channel here differ to the other regions that you are familiar with?

To my understanding, most of the vendors, or at least the big ones, go to market through partners; it is seldom direct business.

We guide them and train them of course, but the outlet towards the end-user is always the channel. This is why the channel is very important here, it is why partners are very important to me as chairman of SNIA and it is why SNIA has a special programme for partners.

Hopefully next year, with the programmes that we have in place, it will be quite easy for a channel partner to join SNIA Europe. The focus for SNIA Europe at the moment is on increasing our membership through new members in the channel.

The pace of change in the storage sector is renowned for being incredibly fast. As an expert in the industry what would your advice be for the channel?

Keep track of all the trends. At the SNIA Academy in Dubai, when I asked partners and vendors what their requirements are in terms of long-term archiving, I got the impression that some of them did not know.

This is a place where the channel can really help educate. Also, I am not sure how much legal advice you can give in the UAE, but at least give some guidelines.

Help the customer to understand what the long-term storage requirements are, and then people can get on with selling solutions and products. When they are established and they have the knowledge they can then work to become a trusted partner.

They can help the customer understand what the best data solution is for them and help customers through the data migration process. There's a lot of business behind our education.

SNIA Europe has a number of regional groups, but they are confined to the European markets. There has been talk of you opening a local chapter in Saudi Arabia for the Middle East. Is that true?

Absolutely. I am not just interested, I think the European board of directors has a charter to create more local organisations and more local country committees. At the moment we have eight, but by the end of 2008 we want to have 10.

We are going to announce another one in Russia in July and also in the next six months I hope that I can create a local chapter here in the Middle East.

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