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Open Storage shrugs off tough competition

VAR's services, new products increase revenue enough that it's able to open third office in the U.S.rn

Storage resellers have had a frustrating year. On the one hand, demand has never been higher. On the other, intense competition is eating away at margins.

Still, it’s been a very satisfying time for Brampton, Ont.-based Open Storage Solutions, which managed to jump from 48th spot last year to

37th position this year on our chart.

“”We’ve actually seen some very encouraging signs there’s growing demand,”” said company president Andrew Betterton. “”And there’s some exciting new products offering great value to customers which are promoting activity.””

He also credits the emphasis the firm is putting on expanding its services.

The growth must be gratifying to its managers, who gambled on the company’s future. It started a quarter century ago as the sales and service arm of a British-based conglomerate which specialized in disk storage and memory for Digital Corp. computers. Parcelled off to a U.S. firm, it diversified into storage for other manufacturers, but 12 years ago a new buyer was sought.

The Canadian managers saw potential, so Betterton, Dennis Leung (now vice-president of finance) and Mike Curran (now VP of sales) took it over.

Its estimated 2004 revenues are between $30 and $40 million.

The company designs and integrates advanced storage products for high performance computing in the mid- and low enterprise space.

It offers RAID products from Infinity, Omega and Nexsan; libraries from Overland, StorageTek and ADIC; Intel and Sun-based servers; SAN products from vendors such as Brocade; NAS solutions from vendors such as Network Appliance; and storage management software.

New San Diego office

OSS has offices across the country and three in the U.S.: The Cleveland and Indianapolis offices, which are about 10 years old, were opened as part of a strategy of seeking underutilized markets south of the border.

But this year, the company took the risk of opening a branch in highly competitive San Diego. “”Time will tell whether we will stick with that,”” says Betterton. “”It’s premature to say how that’s going to go.””

Still, not every decision OSS made this year was right. “”We jumped into a couple of product choices without doing our homework in terms of how competitive we could be in terms of pricing,”” he says. Impressed by the technology of a vendor, “”we assumed we’d be competitive in the market.””

The result was wasted time training staff, and a lesson learned the hard way.

Next year, Betterton’s goals are to continue building the professional services work, make the San Diego office a success and develop the new Internet protocol-based storage area networks. “”IP-based SANs, hitting that broader market, there’s a tremendous potential there.””