New Hitachi VSP E990 strengthens push to increase Canadian channel business

Hitachi Vantara’s new VSP model for the broader enterprise market, together with a revamped AIOPs management system and a new EverFlex financing package, hit the Canadian market as the company looks to expand its channel business here.

Matt Nalbandian, Hitachi Vantara Canada, Partners & Alliances

Hitachi Vantara has introduced the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform [VSP] E990, their new enterprise storage platform, which brings some high-end features from last fall’s high-end VSP 5000 platform to the midsize enterprise market. That’s really the sweet spot for the enterprise in Canada. The VSP E990’s suitability for Canadian customers is expected to play a key role in further deepening the company’s 2020 initiative to expand the amount of business that goes through the Canadian channel, in particular the 8-10 key partners that are deemed strategically critical to that channel business.

“We are really going to market with the channel this year, and Canadian partners in 2020 will be pleasantly surprised,” said Matt Nalbandian, Hitachi Vantara Canada, Partners & Alliances. “In Canada we have a lot of new programs and initiatives pointed towards the channel. We were not channel-heavy before, but my goal is to get that channel business as high as possible. It’s a different approach from what we used to do.”

Nalbandian joined Hitachi Vantara from NetApp in January, replacing longtime Canadian channel leader Peter Kriparos, who departed in December for a similar role with Informatica. Nalbandian’s role is the same, including handling channel partners, alliances and distribution. Nalbandian stressed, however, that the channel role at Hitachi Vantara has evolved significantly, reflecting the impact of Todd Palmer as SVP of worldwide strategic partners and alliances. Palmer joined the company last summer from Cohesity.

“At that time, Hitachi’s Go-to-Market was still mainly direct, and they brought in Todd to redefine the channel role and provide more of a channel-first mandate,” Nalbandian said. “He recruited me from NetApp for channels in Canada, and hired Ken Marks away from Splunk for North America.” Marks, who had been America’s Vice President, Partners & Alliances at Splunk, was brought on board as Vice President, Partners & Alliances at Hitachi Vantara.

Nalbandian said that this has all been in aid of a transition to a truly channel-first approach.

“Management in Canada is embracing the new channel model,” he stressed. “We have invested a huge amount of money, including in a new partner portal, Partner Connect. I now have a technical partner manager [in Montreal] and we are hiring sales and technical partner managers for the Toronto region. We are also investing more in training.”

Nalbandian said that a historical problem in Canada has been that too many of Hitachi’s channel partners didn’t attach enough comparative importance to the company.

“Some of our partners weren’t fully invested in our technology,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in working with focused partners – not a bunch doing deals for a couple points of margin. There will always be some partners who do onesies and twosies. But what’s really important is the big partners we are working with and what we can do to augment our presence with them. We want to be more relevant in those 8-10 key partners across Canada.”

Unsurprisingly, that focus on going deep with a select channel is also global channel leader Todd Palmer’s philosophy. Nalbandian said that changes are being made in Canada to have more appeal to those key channel players.

“I’m building some attractive Canadian-focused incents with high margin and high back end rebates,” he said. “With these partners, if you are only 5-10% of their revenue, you aren’t relevant. We are aiming at 25%. We want to be relevant in their business. We want these partners to know who their reps are.”

Nalbandian said that the early results are promising.

“Last quarter, we had a channel sales growth of 6% over last year,” he stated.

Partners outside that top tier aren’t being dropped, but will be supported by distribution. Tech Data handles Hitachi Vantara’s distribution in Canada.

The new product announcement, the VSP E990, is highly significant for this channel strategy because  it takes technology elements from the high end V5000 array that was the highlight of last October’s Hitachi Vantara NEXT event and brings them into a market that is a much stronger channel play. The VSP E990 will also be a much stronger play in the Canadian market.

“We are welcoming into the VSP family the all new E990 high performance NVMe all flash array, announced Colin Gallagher, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Product Marketing at Hitachi Vantara, in the company’s Tuesday virtual product launch – presented from each executive’s own home, as has become industry practice in the era of the coronavirus.

“It will help you accelerate your business critical workloads, deliver more value from your existing infrastructure and support business innovation, both today and in the future,” Gallagher added. “The VSP E990 gives you economical access to the latest NVMe technology,  and allows you to confidently and cost effectively adopt all-NVMe storage today.”

The ‘economical’ is the key here. While the VSP 5000 is targeted at the very largest organizations, the E990, designed from ground up for NVMe and its massive parallelism, is aimed at the broader midsize enterprise market. It scales from a capacity floor of as low as 6 TB raw, with up to 5.8 million IOPS, and latencies as low as 64μs

“This really makes sense for the Canadian market of enterprises with $50 million of revenue and up,” Nalbandian said. While it sits squarely below the VSP 9000 in the portfolio, its drawing from that technology puts it well above mid-range models like the VSP F900 that Hitachi Vantara had been selling to this market segment.

“We have also been selling the 5100 series into this space,” he noted. That’s more of an entry level product, however, which lacks the VSP E990’s oomph.

“It brings industry-leading latency, compared to our competitors, from the VSP 5000,” Nalbandian said. “It has the really fast rebuild times from the 5000 – 75% faster. The CPUs are 40% higher performance and 4-1 data reduction is guaranteed with our deduplication.”

In addition to the VSP E990, Hitachi Vantara announced the 10.1 version of Ops Center, their AIOPs management system, which for the first time is able to manage all VSP solutions.

“Ops Center has traditionally been our AIOps solution for large enterprises, but with  the addition of 10.1, we now extend that to be able to manage all the VSP family from a single pane of glass,” said Jonathan Martin, Hitachi Vantara’s CMO, during the online product launch.

Finally, Hitachi Vantara has revamped its financing capabilities with EverFlex, which allows a more flexible choice of options between purchasing, leasing, and utility-based acquisition models.

“EverFlex provides a simple, elastic and comprehensive way for you to get predictable pricing and flexible usage for the entire Hitachi Vantara portfolio,” said Patricia Harris, VP, Marketing at Hitachi Vantara. “It delivers elastic pay per use to lower TCO up to 20% and align costs to business to use for hardware, software and services. What’s unique about EverFlex is you can blend any Hitachi Vantara product or service to customize a solution that’s perfect for your business or your budget. EverFlex is the new bar for customer choice.”

“We’ve always had storage on demand and sold that, but now with EverFlex it provides a purchase or lease option, and the consumption option utility model,” Nalbandian added.

EverFlex will be available on the VSP E990 out of the gate, and will be extended to the other VSP family members after that.