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Despite the impact of the recession, the Middle East IT storage market is gearing up for a resurgence in 2012, with enterprises across the region moving to consolidate and protect their data assets by investing in the latest innovations.

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Backed for success Venkat Raman, sales director, Avnet Gulf & Levant.
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By  Aaron Greenwood Published  February 26, 2012

Despite the impact of the recession, the Middle East IT storage market is gearing up for a resurgence in 2012, with enterprises across the region moving to consolidate and protect their data assets by investing in the latest innovations. Aaron Greenwood reports.

With the lingering effects of the 2008 recession still being felt across the Middle East and the very real threat of a double-dip downturn casting a shadow over economic recovery, the regional IT channel sector is entering 2012 with a sense of caution for the year ahead.

Still, many of the industry’s top stakeholders are pinning their 12 month plans to a number of key industry sectors – one of the most important being IT storage.

The fact remains that many of the Middle East’s top enterprises delayed storage investments during the worst periods of the recession and despite the shaky economic outlook, the vast majority are expected to review their positions in 2012 out of sheer necessity.

“The Middle East storage market is recovering from a couple of years of flat growth where enterprises have delayed any upgrades as long as possible and done their best to tame the dragon of data growth,” comments Anthony Harrison, solution architect for Symantec MENA. “However, the rate of growth has not slowed during this period so that means there is a lot of pent-up demand caused by increased pressure on storage infrastructures that are now bursting at the seams.”

The key advantage for these enterprises is the fact the storage market has come on leaps and bounds in terms of innovation and product diversity in recent years. The industry’s top suppliers and their channel partners have tailored their respective strategies to tap into the demand, developing customised solutions that combine the best aspects and capabilities of the latest technologies.

“Despite the worldwide [recession] and the political instability in the Middle East, we have seen the storage market growing year on year especially in the sector of storage area network (SAN) deployments,” says Carlos Tannous – HP Business Unit manager at Aptec Distribution Middle East.

“Storage solutions that support cloud computing and virtualised desktop/server infrastructures are attracting major investment in this region. Enterprises are interested in technologies that consolidate their IT investments, improve operational efficiencies and minimise the negative impact of data growth.”

Zaher Haydar, regional pre-sales manager, EMC says, the Middle East is still enjoying economic growth above worldwide averages and data growth in the region is on the rise with information security always a concern. Therefore, says Haydar, companies need to look for storage solutions that are well integrated with security solutions and that can scale on the long run according to their growing needs. “It’s important that they make the decision to buy storage solutions based on how those solutions will enable them to provide the business with efficiency, agility and information protection,” he says.

Rymon Saad, general manager, Symantec & NetApp business at Tech Access, says the Middle East is encountering massive storage requirements and growth. Saad says depending on the  business practices, organisational dynamics have led to the need for different data storage architectures such as storage virtualisation and de-duplication as part of the strategy for corporate success in the region. “With the continuous growth of the applications associated with bandwidth performance and high-density disk storage requirements, challenges in providing storage solutions are minimal,” he says.

The sheer number of storage technologies available has also encouraged a shift in channel strategies, with many resellers now actively encouraging clients to consider storage deployments utilising technologies from multiple vendors.

The greatest shift in this respect has come in the small to medium enterprise (SME) market, claims Venkat Raman, sales director – Gulf & Levant, Avnet Technology Solutions.

Haydar agrees and adds that in general, customers do face the same technological challenges around the world and it doesn’t necessarily vary from one region to another. The customers in the Middle East region are willing to adopt leading edge technologies quicker than more developed countries sometimes. “When set to purchase many organisations have started to focus on sustainable long-term reductions in TCO rather than short-term CAPEX savings, they started to look for consolidated and virtualised infrastructures as a concept but focusing mainly on the servers virtualisation only,” he says.

“A major change we have noticed is the increasing willingness of our partners to propose mixed vendor solutions – i.e. servers from Vendor A and storage technologies from Vendor B – matching the willingness of customers to accept a ‘mixed technology’ environment,” he says. “Mixed environments have traditionally been the norm in large enterprise facilities but we are now seeing this trend arise in the SME space as well.”
Govind Haridas – Storage & Security Business Unit manager at Aptec Distribution, believes there are major gains to be had among resellers willing to offer clients innovative solutions to their storage infrastructure challenges.

“Resellers are witnessing diminishing margins in traditional areas of engagement with their customers – namely servers and networking technologies,” he explains. “With their customer relationships intact, these resellers can upsell storage solutions to make up for the loss of revenue in these areas.

“The storage market represents an addressable opportunity which will contribute significantly to the reseller’s top- and bottom-lines. We are encouraging our resellers to promote storage solutions from global leaders like NetApp and IBM whose offerings maintain synergies with virtualisation products from the likes of VMware and Microsoft. Solutions from certain vendors also ensure value for the reseller’s clients in the form of TCO through unified storage. The resulting return on investment is highly tangible.”

“In this region, many customers are heavily reliant on third-parties to provide the necessary IT skills, advice and consultancy services,” adds Symantec’s Harrison. “Resellers need to educate their customers at all levels about the relative pros and cons of the various storage solutions available. Those who specialise in storage and work more closely with vendors can differentiate themselves far better than those who spread themselves very thinly and chase every opportunity available.”

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