By Lisa Coleman
Recently, several distributors have sharpened their focus on storage, even though they have always had storage-related practices to meet the needs of their OEM, value-added resellers (VARs), and system integrator customers. By providing more value-added services-education, interoperability labs, and enhanced technical support-distributors hope to deliver storage systems that better meet end users' expectations.
"A lot of what we're going to do is a campaign to educate and make sure users understand what's out there so they can become more rapid adopters of [storage] technology," says Jim Markisohn, vice president of business development for the North American computer products group of Arrow Electronics, a distributor that specializes in enterprise computing.
To further expand Arrow's and its resellers' storage business, the company revamped its Consan business last year. Consan was a company owned by Arrow that specialized in unbranded storage systems. Arrow overhauled Consan's business focus, changed its name to Arrow Enterprise Storage Solutions (AESS), and added more engineering and sales staff.
In January, AESS announced partnerships with 14 storage manufacturers, including Adaptec, Compaq, Crossroads, EMC, Exabyte, Gadzoox, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, JNI, McData, QLogic, Quantum/ATL, and Veritas.
As part of its enterprise storage solutions unit, Arrow plans to open four enterprise storage labs around the US. One was scheduled to open in Atlanta in February, another in Minneapolis, and two more on the East and West Coasts later this year. In the labs, resellers can simulate their customers' IT environments to perform product demos, interoperability testing, benchmarking, and to evaluate heterogeneous environments.
National distributor Tech Data recently introduced its Back Office Solution Specialists (BOSS) program to help VARs and system integrators provide better enterprise storage systems for end users through Tech Data's technical support. The company has a specialized business unit to concentrate on enterprise storage from its key suppliers: Compaq, HP, and IBM.
VARs and integrators can use the BOSS program to help put together bids or to work through the request-for-proposal process. "One of the biggest issues for integrators over the past couple of years is that the technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that they can't keep up with all of it," says Matt McManus, director of product marketing for enterprise systems at Tech Data. "Technology and solutions are getting more and more complex, and VARs and integrators can go to vendors to get the vendor pitch. But to get a fully integrated solution they may want to come to a distributor," says McManus.
Over the last six months, distributor Pioneer-Standard Electronics launched two new programs, including a storage area network (SAN) implementation service with Compaq and delivery of Linux systems and support.
Pioneer-Standard works with Compaq to certify technicians to provide SAN implementation that includes site review, configuration, validation, logical and physical design, installation, documentation, and training. The company also provides education and runs an educational program at IBM for training and product announcements, demonstrations, etc.
"When you get into some of the more complicated areas, especially network storage where you're connecting to the Internet or to SANs, there are a lot of customers who have heard about it and read about it but really don't have the skills to implement it," says Bill Pinkerton, director of marketing for IBM storage at Pioneer-Standard. "Anybody can buy hardware, but the real trick is making it work and hooking it up in a network environment."