Storing future gains

Channel Middle East talks to Juergen Arnold and Mahesh Vaidya of the Storage Networking Industry Association to find out what the group has done to make business simpler for the channel

Tags: Storage Networking Industry AssociationUnited Arab Emirates
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Storing future gains Juergen Arnold. (Louis Dillon Savage/ITP Images)
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By  Julian Pletts Published  April 12, 2009 Channel Middle East Logo

SNIA recently opened the door to channel membership. What benefits are there for the channel community to join up?
JA: The key benefit for the channel player is that it allows them to be presented as vendor-neutral through certification and training. Thus they are not coming in with the vendor-specific approach.

They are pointing out the specific concept and then selecting the appropriate vendor. Many VARs have specific vendors that work with them and this is where there is benefit because if you have this branding from SNIA you are recognised as being an expert in storage and not just representing one vendor. That is important in this region as all of the business is done though the channel.

How does that work when end-users may not be fully-versed in storage and therefore search out familiar vendor names?
JA: We have discussed this with the local team and now that we have a local presence here SNIA needs to grow, which means being seen as a vendor-neutral entity. This reputation needs to grow here. This acceptance is the task of the local team, as well as making us readily available. With the correct communication and events like the SNIA Middle East Academy, end-users will begin to understand what it is that we have to offer.

This region is still covered under SNIA Europe because there is no SNIA Middle East yet. Why is that?
JA: I cover SNIA Europe, and the Middle East is our first entity outside of Central Europe. That is why I have the mandate to cover the EMEA region. We have no staff here in the Middle East, but we have created a country committee, which is actually more than one country. Mahesh is the chairman of the country committee for the Middle East. We have opened this local chapter and it shows we see this as a booming market and we have a clear engagement here.

How many Middle East partners are members of SNIA?
MV: We have just started partner recruitment and ISIT and Tech Access have joined. We have other partners as well but they are vendor members of SNIA Europe that have come out here. What we are trying to do now is get more channel partners involved, as well as end-users.

What are the requirements for a Middle East partner to join SNIA?
JA: It depends on the size and the metrics of the company, and whether they are in just one country. There is an entry point for the channel and this is set at US$1,338. From a marketing point of view, this is a very low cost to be placed on our website, carried as part of our programmes and to use the SNIA logo.

When a partner joins, what sort of participation would you like to see from them?
JA: We expect them to be engaged and serve the industry by passing on information. We feed them with state-of-the-art information and trends, and then they can relay that to their customers. We enable channel members to have a broader and higher knowledge in their field. They can read the white papers and become certified by professionals. In the Middle East we already have a lot of professionals that have gone through our process and are highly specified and recognised as top professionals.

Let me give you an example of this. Last week, our sales guys were in Abu Dhabi meeting a major government institution and the talk was around solid status.

The top CIO was comparing solid status to his USB drive and suggesting that solid status was not reliable. We were able to access the SNIA tutorials on solid state and present them to the end-user. They were then able to understand that solid status is ready for enterprises and can no longer be compared to a USB stick.

How much do you apply local knowledge and specifications to the tutorials?
MV: In the first meeting as a local committee we drafted an agenda catering to the requirements in the Middle East region. In the future, what we are going to do is host webinars with either local speakers or someone from the US or European branches of SNIA. We will do more things like this that are specific to requirements in this region.

What plans do you have in the Middle East for the rest of 2009 and beyond?
MV: Firstly, we would like to get more partners on board and have some keynote sessions and other events. We would like to get the education going because there are a lot of subjects, such as green storage, de-duplication and solid state, that people are really confused about right now. Our goal is to educate these people and to recruit additional members.

VARs can't afford to make mistakes in today's climate. Is SNIA able to provide guidance on how to demonstrate ROI?
MV: Absolutely. Let me give you an example. A systems integrator gets a call from a customer asking for 10 terabytes of storage. What does the systems integrator do? Probably gives them cheaper storage. It doesn't analyse what their real requirement is and why they require 10 terabytes.

It might be the case that an ILM solution would be enough. If the systems integrator knows enough about ILM solutions, the first thing it would say is, "do you really need 10 terabytes of storage?" At the end of the day, the systems integrator should solve the customer's problem.

If they give that customer 10 terabytes of storage, it might solve their issue for a couple of months, but after that they are going to run into problems. If the SI's mentality is to really help the customer then they can go back with the SNIA tutorials on ILM and show them how to use it.

5 Top storage tips for resellers

SNIA's Juergen Arnold reveals how the channel can succeed in storage

1. Understand market requirements
Heighten your business processes and don't walk away from today's business problems. Understand the market and apply that understanding to do whatever it takes to implement successful projects.

2. Evaluate key trends on where the customer wants to invest
This is not necessarily where the hype is. Be careful of this, customers are more conservative. It is also important that we are not only talking about the future trends. From the region that I am coming from, if you talk about back-up and recovery progression sometimes it sounds ridiculous because customers still have normal problems with back-up and recovery.

3. Adopt best practices and maintain market communication
SNIA publishes a lot of white papers and offers terminology talking bridges. It is important for the channel to speak the same language. The customer may think totally different and use different wording than a professional at an integrator. If they use our talking bridges or taxonomies, and the industry learns the terms from the same dictionary as the customer, they are both more educated and able to solve problems.

4. Be aware of government regulations
The government is driving requirements. You might not want to implement something, but someone tells you that you have to otherwise you go to jail. I understand that here in the Middle East it is even more strict. For example, the telecom operators installing the CDRs are even more restricted than in Europe. So you need to understand what is coming along. This is exactly where the channel needs to educate itself on what end-users need and provide them with the right tools and products.

5. Make the return on investment opportunities clear for the end-user
You have to have the capabilities to understand what your client really needs and where they can save money, not just in technology terms, but in terms of investment. So if you can make it quite clear to the executive that investing half a million dollars will result in a pay-back within nine months, they can easily think it through.

I think the situation needs to shift more away from the VAR only being a technology advisor towards the direction of answering questions on how solutions contribute to the business outcome of the end-user organisation. In that case, management are still investing based on priorities.

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