Magazine Article | August 17, 2012

Big Data, Big Opportunities For The Channel

By Brian Albright, Business Solutions Magazine

Virtualization, cloud technology, and the explosion of enterprise data present an opening for integrated data management offerings.

When people in the data management and storage business started using the term “big data” a few years ago, it was mostly applied to the types of large data sets managed by scientific institutions and large financial services companies. But now, almost every enterprise could face a data storage and management crisis within the decade.

“Everyone has been aware for five or six years that the exponential growth of data will create some drastic changes in the way the market for storage solutions behaves,” says Laurent Dedenis, president of worldwide sales and marketing at Acronis. “Yet I have the feeling that even in 2012, many people still seem surprised by the real amount of data being created. The amount of data we are creating is bigger than anyone thought it would be.”

It’s not only the amount of data being created, but the velocity at which it’s generated, the number of people creating it, and the variety of tools they use to create and access the data. In particular, the explosion of connected mobile devices, from smartphones to laptops to tablets means the pressure is on IT to improve storage, management, and security, all while tamping down costs and ensuring access to a large, distributed workforce.

“There really are not that many companies in the enterprise space with a confirmed strategy that will help them move from where they are with data now to where they are going to be a few years down the road,” Dedenis says. That creates opportunities for companies with storage offerings, particularly as more end users turn to virtualization strategies and cloud-computing solutions to help expand their storage options.

Resellers can provide an invaluable service to customers by helping them structure their data storage solutions appropriately. “Protecting this data is an essential process,” Dedenis says. “How are you going to protect, manage, and optimize your storage across multiple different data centers and clouds, both public and private, over multiple platforms and multiple devices?”

Two Types Of Virtualization Clients

Dedenis says there are two types of organizations in the market right now. First, early adopters that embraced virtualization in the enterprise and have moved into cloud solutions rapidly. “These companies may be protecting their physical and virtual servers in different ways, and that added complexity does create some stress, but they are more or less ready for making this transition,” Dedenis says.

On the other hand, there are many small and midsize businesses that are just now beginning the process of virtualization, and it is these companies that face the largest security challenges. They may have difficulty managing the different security needs of a heterogeneous storage environment.

“The security for these companies’ virtual servers tends to be lower and not as sophisticated as what is in place for the physical infrastructure,” Dedenis says. “They use two different sets of tools and technologies with different interfaces and different applications involved, and that makes support of multiple platforms more complicated for them.”

In addition, there are many smaller companies that are rapidly moving into cloud solutions. They are getting rid of their own infrastructure and workstations and quickly moving to the cloud. Dedenis says, “We believe that trend is going to accelerate the adoption of cloud technology across the board.”

Channel Finds New Ways To Do Business

What does this mean for the channel? For one thing, resellers that got involved in virtualization early are positioned to grow their business. “Virtualization has allowed a larger set of resellers and integrators to change the way they do business,” Dedenis says. “These companies are gaining market share because they jumped on the virtualization bandwagon early on in the process and own the market.”

Resellers can shift into providing cloud and other services to their customers. “We see a lot of partners that have transformed their business model from selling licenses and one-off services to packaging storage-level service and application support and creating new service level agreements for their customers,” Dedenis says. “They sell themselves as service providers to the customer, and the cloud is helping in that process.”

Finally, Dedenis says that resellers who previously offered SaaS solutions have an opportunity to expand and integrate new services like backup and disaster recovery. “Everything can be done from a central location in the cloud, whether public or private,” Dedenis says. “There’s an amazing opportunity to acquire new customers and combine services that were previously difficult to aggregate.”