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Top 5 Vendors to watch 2010: HDS Canada in transition

A new focus and message from Hitachi Data Systems is drawing in new customers

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) isn’t exactly a vendor that is up-and-coming in the market place, nor are they under the radar. They are an established brand in the market place. So why should we watch HDS in 2010?

For that, you have to go back a few years to when HDS was basically irrelevant in the market place. The company always had great products, but its go-to-market strategies simply were not clicking with the channel, or with customers for that matter.

And, then a few things happened at the same time that made HDS a player again. First was the growing demand in the market place for virtualization. This trend coincided with a change in philosophy for HDS in North America. The company decided to transform from a technically-based com­­­pany into a sales organization with a 100 per cent channel-friendly strategy.

HDS had a fragmented business model where the company was divided into three districts and was part of two other differently named regions. HDS was not seen by the market place as a standalone entity. The challenge for the Canadian operation was to have it treated like a region. “That was a bad model we played in,” said Barry Morrison, regional vice-president and GM of HDS Canada. Morrison was put in place to redefine HDS in the Canadian market.

Just by making Canada a region again, sales doubled. In 2008, HDS grew 18 per cent, and 2009 it grew just short of 40 per cent.

There were other aspects of the business that HDS did not participate in. For example, HDS had zero government business. Mor­rison changed that and now 35 per cent of HDS Canada revenue comes from the Government of Canada. But that’s not all. HDS Canada sharpened its focus and started delivering solutions specifically for financial markets and telecommunications.“They didn’t give Canada the respect it deserved and by revamping the business started with a new CEO (Jack Domme) who became a client facing executive. We now have sales leaders whereas in the past we had technical people leading the company. Today, HDS is a sales lead organization,” Morrison said.HDS Canada also carefully crafted a message the market is taking hold of. According to Morrison, HDS positioned itself in virtualization with storage solutions that had value. “In 2009 the economic slowdown was a bit lucky for us because storage doesn’t slow down and customers wanted to talk about total cost of ownership and storage virtualization leverages that,” he said.

This message drew in new clients to HDS who didn’t have bountiful IT resources or had their budgets slashed. “2009 was a tough year for OpX budgets. The message from us was all based on the benefits of virtualization and it really took hold in 2009,” Morrison added.