NEC Plots HydraStor Campaign

NEC is inching along in its sales plan for HydraStor, aiming for high impact in 2009

March 8, 2008

3 Min Read
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NEC Corp. of America's taking a tortoise's approach to rolling out its futuristic HydraStor storage platform. But a pilot reseller program, along with some quiet but aggressive marketing, could help NEC gain headway.

To review: It's been nearly a year since NEC introduced HydraStor, an IP-based storage system that combines disk backup and archiving, features a modular architecture, and packs de-duplication and data compression.

But HydraStor's only been shipping since October, and NEC isn't ready to relinquish the reins to channel partners. Instead, the company is pounding the pavement directly. And it's created a pilot program for a handful of selected resellers, who will act as guinea pigs for a full-scale channel partner rollout in January 2009.

NEC's reasoning is that HydraStor is different enough that its introduction to customers needs to be supported by lots of handholding. "HydraStor is a new technology. It's not a 'me too' system. We are a next-generation storage platform, and we want to make sure we can help our customers," says Karen Dutch, general manager of the Advanced Storage Products Group at NEC Corp. of America. "We're going to walk before we can run. This is a solution sell. It involves performance, backup windows, retrieve time, litigation support features. Partners need expertise in those areas."

Dutch denies that customers are resistant to the new technology in HydraStor, or that sales cycles are long. "We're doing really well. We're ahead of our business plan," she says. But she refuses to reveal any specific customer figures.At the rollout of HydraStor last year, NEC said the system had been in beta since November 2006, and the company claimed customers such as financial clearing house Distributed Storage Technologies, Depository Trust; TLC, a large engineering firm in the Southeast U.S.; Bancorp Bank of Wilmington, Del., which sets up online banking for groups nationwide; Baptist Memorial Hospitals; and a range of non-profit firms, including Anderson Center for Autism.

Ongoing sales will depend on a solid channel, however. And NEC can't afford to take a back seat to other suppliers. Indeed, it seems to be leveraging its position as disk storage systems underdog (according to IDC figures) to forge relationships with partners and prospects.

The first reseller NEC picked for its partner pilot was IT Data Storage, a VAR in Atlanta, Ga., chosen not just for its location and clientele which includes Coca Cola Enterprises, Georgia Pacific, McGraw-Hill, and a range of government agencies, to name a few – but because its CEO Ron Robinson wants to work hard with NEC.

"Our customers have expressed a lot of interest in HydraStor as a way to combine functions to replace tape for backup and archiving," says IT Data Storage CEO Ron Robinson. "Being able to partner with NEC is easier than dealing with some other large suppliers, who can make it hard to deal with a local sales team. NEC has been very open and available."

So how is HydraStor really doing? It's tough to tell. But at least two industry sources are positive on the rampup of the product. "They seem to win the RFPs that require large amounts of de-dupe storage, like hundreds of terabytes to petabytes," said one analyst, who asked not to be named."They're marketing hard and well and getting recognition in data centers for performance and scalability," says analyst Tom Trainer of the Evaluator Group. "My sense is that they're trying to plan right and let the market bear them out."

NEC has its work cut out. Companies like EMC, Hitachi, and 3PAR are all pitching prospects on their own new or planned next-gen platforms.

NEC hopes that the slow and steady approach will boost HydraStor in the coming months. At the very least, it will be a contender in an upcoming competition for revisionist storage.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Evaluator Group

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • NEC America Inc.

  • 3PAR Inc.

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