Arrow to take Violin to North American channel

Violin has never been a serious North American channel player before, but having remade the company with a channel-friendly product and channel-centric go-to-market platform, it has selected Arrow as its first North American distributor

Joe Burke Arrow 300

Joe Burke, vice president and general manager of Arrow’s Enterprise Storage, Security, Networking and Virtualization Group

Arrow Electronics has announced a North American distribution agreement with flash storage vendor Violin Memory, which will make Violin’s products available to Arrow’s solution provider partners in the U.S. and Canada.

While Violin has been a pioneering force in all-flash storage for years, until earlier this year, they had no need for distribution in North America because they had a very marginal channel presence. They had a few channel partners, including Toronto-based OnX Enterprise Solutions, but their product was extremely high end, extremely expensive, and was not primary storage. So while Violin used distribution in other parts of the world, in North America they sold mainly direct since they didn’t have a good channel product.

That all changed in February, when Violin introduced a new Flash Memory Platform which would run an all-flash system for less than the cost of traditional spinning disks. Equally important, it was designed for primary storage, and would sell to a much broader customer base than Violin’s earlier product.

“You could make the statement that we are really relaunching the company with this new platform, because it addresses a completely different market,” Jeff Nollette, Violin’s Worldwide Vice President, Channel Sales, told ChannelBuzz. Violin followed up the product launch with a complete reboot of its channel program in March, when it replaced its admittedly substandard program with one that was designed to provide significant support for partners. Margins were increased, and other benefits implemented, in some cases for the first time. Training, which had not even been provided before, despite the Violin products being some of the most complex in the industry, was introduced, and is both rigorous and free.

This brings us to the Arrow announcement. With a new product and a new go-to-market strategy where partners are central rather than peripheral, Violin needed North American distribution, and they have chosen Arrow as their first North American distributor. Joe Burke, vice president and general manager of Arrow’s Enterprise Storage, Security, Networking and Virtualization Group, is well aware of Violin’s less than sterling channel past, but was impressed with how the company has remade itself in a fairly short time to become channel-focused.

“In our business at Arrow, we talk to a lot of manufacturers, and we are always looking to find a company doing what Violin has done,” Burke said. “They revamped their product to be a good channel product, and that product tripled their addressable market [from $5 to $15 billion]. They are backing up the changes with their actions, and with the channel programs they are rolling out, such as the training.”

Burke acknowledged that Violin has a job to win the channel over, but said that can be done.

“I think our partner base will evaluate them the same way we do, asking the same types of questions,” Burke said. “Will they hire every reseller out there? What’s my profit proposition with them? How will we work with their direct sales, in terms of will they be competitors for us, or will we be working with them? Violin has given us very good answers to these questions. How they execute – and how we execute – will determine the reseller response.”

That being said, Burke is optimistic.

“I think that the pickup by our solution providers will ultimately be very broad,” he said. “The new product is quite spectacular, but adoption will be determined by these other factors. I don’t think you will have a strong partner response out of the gate, but think it will pick up momentum with successful execution.”

Arrow will back Violin with the resources of its sales and technical teams.

“We have a go-to-market plan to introduce them to our resellers, and have a full training program in place,” Burke said. “We also have the usual suite of logistics and financial backing for partners to make sure they can close deals.”

Arrow signed a similar deal with Violin covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa earlier this year. Violin indicated that the North American deal is not an exclusive one, but does not have any other imminent distribution announcements.