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March 31, 2004


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Some Midtier Vendors Thrive In Tough Times

By Michele Pepe

Consolidation may be the order of the day in the storage arena, but quite a few midtier vendors have avoided getting gobbled up. Many of those players also have forged solid relationships with solution providers.

Take Exabyte. The Boulder, Colo.-based tape autoloader and library vendor sells 80 percent of its products through the channel, said Kelly Beavers, vice president of marketing. Though some industry observers claim the future of tape technology is dim, storage solution providers say they've been doing brisk sales in that segment.

"They've been predicting the tape drive's demise for 20 years, but I've been doing very well in the tape business," said John Zammet, president of HorizonTek, a Huntington, N.Y.-based solution provider. "The technology is inexpensive, portable and efficient."

HorizonTek's storage vendor partners, which includes Overland Storage, Quantum and Spectra Logic, have done a great job marketing a solid line of products, Zammet said.

Late last month, for example, San Diego-based Overland Storage released version 3.0 of its Storage Resource Manager (SRM) software. Last June, Overland rolled out the first iteration of SRM and at the same time launched a storage software business unit to complement its lineup of tape loaders, tape drives and Neo Series tape libraries for enterprise, midsize and workgroup customers.

"A lot of players are leveraging storage management software to sell more hardware, but that's not our approach," said Rick Balazs, director of product marketing at Overland. "We view it more as active resource management,using the software to analyze your SAN and see if your hardware is being utilized as well as it could be."

Overland is also developing another software product, Storage Planner, aimed at helping customers map out and deploy SANs. The company's software solutions present ideal bundling opportunities for resellers, Balazs said.

"Our focus is to drive demand and prospects to the channel," he said. "We sell 100 percent through partners, and we have a no-compete policy. So there are no direct sales."

Meanwhile, Milpitas, Calif.-based Quantum is targeting its tape products and disk-based backup technology at the channel.

"In the past 18 months, we've been focused on ensuring we have the right breadth of technology for our VARs," said Robert Pickell, vice president of marketing at Quantum's Storage Solutions Group. "Our VARs come in all different sizes, and we want to be a select partner for all of them, particularly since their cost is tied to the number of vendor relationships they have to manage."

Tapeless backup systems are rising in popularity as businesses seek a variety of storage options, said Rich Baldwin, president of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider that works with Quantum and several other midtier storage vendors.

"I think this will be the first year we see archive-to-tape and backup-to-disk," Baldwin said. "Backup windows continue to get smaller, and data volumes continue to go up. With disks, backing up and retrieving data is much faster than with tape."

Quantum's DX30 disk-based backup appliance emulates a tape library, so users don't have to change their storage system policies or procedures, Pickell said. "This is especially compelling for VARs serving the SMB space," he said. "Those customers have limited budgets and don't want to do forklift upgrades of their storage systems."

Late last month, Quantum enhanced its Quantum Academy channel program, unveiling new online tools, price breaks and incentives, and sales and market support for partners. The program has three partner designations,Enterprise Solution Provider, Premier Partner and Registered Reseller,and solution providers get varying levels of support from Quantum in the way of joint sales and marketing, lead generation, discounts and training, Pickell said.

Other midtier storage vendors have also aligned closely with channel partners. Spectra Logic, a Boulder-based tape library vendor, derives about 65 percent of its U.S. revenue through solution providers.

Seek Systems sells its RAID-based storage products directly to resellers. "We're not looking for the biggest partners around," said Wayne Smith, CEO of the Seattle-based company. "We're looking for companies that have good reputations and know how to put storage solutions together."

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