Add storage vendor Hitachi Data Systems to the list of vendors asking solution providers to specialize. Many vendors are providing opportunities for channel partners to differentiate themselves from their peers, and in the case of HDS, it’s reaching out to its top partners with new specializations.
While partners have long delivered services on behalf of Hitachi to customers, the need to formalize services capabilities and expertise and make it part of an overall program comes from a need to recognize significant value-add, said Peter Kriparos, manager of channels for Canada at Hitachi Data Systems.
“We come from the high-value space and continue to drive solutions and technology into that space,” Kriparos said. “These service will get us deeper and wider into higher value for our customers.”
Today, the channel drives about 50 per cent of HDS’ business, a mark that Kriparos sees improving as services continue to be the focal area of its channel activities. He said that today, the average HDS installation is about 50 per cent hardware and 50 per cent software and services.
“It shows that customers have embraced a solutions view of our entire stack,” he said.
The plan is to make the specialized partners an exclusive group – an elite group amongst even the company’s elite partners.
“You can be a Platinum partner, but this really raises the bar and makes them part of a select few,” Kriparos said.
Areas of specialization under the new program include virtualization, migration, file and content, applications and management. While most of those areas are traditional focuses for the services delivered by Hitachi partners, the applications specialization “takes us into new areas,” Kriparos said. Initial application specializations will include VMware, Microsoft (Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint), Symantec, Oracle and SAP.
While the specializations are targeted at the Platinum Partners at the top tier of HDS’ channel program, Kriparos stressed that any partner can apply for the new program. With a relatively small channel base, it’s handling applications for the specialized partner program on a case-by-case basis. This may be especially important around the applications space, where major partners of Hitachi’s own solution partners may be able to add a great deal of value, but may not do the volume of business required to make Hitachi’s top tier – currently the Platinum tier of the TrueNorth Partner Program carries with it a requirement for annual sales levels north of $4 million.
Partners can apply to their regional channel manager, and Hitachi will take a look at the level of services partners bring to the table. Hitachi’s own Global Services organization will also be involved in evaluating and selecting specialized partners.
Still, Kriparos sees it as a very exclusive club. Hitachi Data Systems only has five partners in Canada at each of its Platinum and Gold tiers, and it anticipates a similar base for its specialized partners. Kriparos said his goal is to have one specialized partner in each of the major territories – Western Canada, the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa and Montreal.
Specialized partners will also get access to a new internal call centre sort support, part of an overall push on partner support via call centre. The company has also extended its general channel support call centre to include sales and marketing support, as well as the standard pre-sales technical support is has offered partners.
HDS has also updated its Partner Portal to include access to a new group of “quick go-to-market” marketing bundles, new ability to configure solutions online, and download manuals and firmware.