Hitachi Data Systems targets legacy Sun partners

With the launch in September its new Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) and Command Suite management software, storage vendor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Canada (NYSE: HIT) is seeing strong momentum in Canada, and plans to grow its channel by up to 30 per cent in 2011.

In an interview with CDN at Hitachi’s annual Information Forum event in Toronto, Barry Morrison, vice president and general manager for HDS Canada, said response to the new storage offerings in Canada has been tremendous.

“It’s a great time for a technology upgrade. People have held off on purchasing equipment, but now they’re ready to buy,” said Morrison. “We spent time with our channel getting all our platinum partners certified and talking-up the new offerings, and that has had a huge impact in the market.”

Morrison said HDS already has four Canadian customers who have bought 19 VSP units, including one channel-led deal that saw one customer purchase four units. The initial uptake has been from the banks and telecom companies impressed by the 2X performance increase and dynamic paging, but Morrison said VSP scales down well into the midmarket.

Chris Willis, senior director of solutions consulting with HDS Canada, called VSP an evolutionary big leap forward in performance and capability, but not a revolutionary change that would cause data centre disruption for potential customers. Indeed, HDS executives emphasized VSP’ ability to virtualize and manage legacy storage platforms in customer data centres, including those from competitors, to ease the transition and upgrade process.

To help bring the new offerings to market, Willis said HDS currently has nine platinum partners across Canada. They want to bring that number up to 12 by bringing-up some of their current gold partners, and they’re also actively recruiting new VAR partners across Canada in key geographies and verticals. In total, HDS wants to grow its Canadian channel by about 30 per cent.

They’re looking for VARs in the West and in Montreal, and they’ve also recently recruited a new VAR in the Maritimes. Many of them are former Sun Microsystems VARs not pleased with the direction Oracle is taking the company, said Willis.

“Lots of (Sun/Oracle) VARs are struggling, and they’re chasing us a bit,” said Willis.

Morrison added there’s a disenchantment at the channel level amongst Sun partners with the direction Oracle has taken. The partners are looking to continue the direction they had with Sun, and as Hitachi supplied many of their Sun boxes Hitachi is an obvious candidate to work with and can offer growth opportunity and stability, said Morrison.

In terms of target verticals, Morrison added health care is a key vertical and HDS is eager to recruit VARs with strong health care practices.

While he hasn’t made a VSP sale yet, Bradley Brodkin, president of Toronto-based Hitachi partner HighVail Systems, said the reaction to the offering has been very strong, as has the interest from his customers.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest and visibility being put around this product, and Hitachi has done an excellent job of creating awareness of this launch with new and existing clients,” said Brodkin. “The new features in the software give us very strong legs. It’s really something we’ll be able to leverage off of.”

Brodkin said he has three clients very interested in VSP, including one existing Hitachi customer and another who is looking to migrate from a competitive platform. He added the ability to VSP to virtualize competitive storage platforms is a strong selling-point in convincing customers to upgrade their infrastructure. By retiring their old platforms, they can same substantially on maintenance costs, as well as cooling and data centre space.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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