“We are taking a software – defined approach” says Yogesh Sawant, Director– Partner Sales and Field Alliance Organization, India, Hitachi Data Systems

While transforming from an infrastructure to a solutions company, Hitachi Data Systems is offering a host powerful software-defined infrastructure solutions to the enterprise customers. In an exclusive chat with DQ Channels, Yogesh Sawant, Director – Partner Sales and Field Alliance Organization, India, HDS, gives an insight into these solutions and how the company is ramping up channel strategies around it. Excerpts:

Q. How has been the journey for HDS in the past one year or so?

In the past year and a half, we have transformed from a storage solution to information solutions company, as we introduced compute to the storage that we already have. We are now further transforming as an organization, wherein we are moving from being an infrastructure to a solutions company. And in this transformation, we had our software-defined infrastructure (SDI) launch in various parts of the country.

Software-defined infrastructure is the next big thing in technology that we are bringing to the table. And we believe that SDI solution is what will drive partner traction big time because this is typically aimed to the partners’ customers. And this traction will make HDS as popular as some of the other players in the market.

We are predominantly viewed as an enterprise player. The reason being top 10 banks of the country has HDS storage and so is some of the large ITeS and manufacturing companies. For mid-range market, we didn’t have the product to play with. As far as SMB segment is concerned, we address this market differently i.e. through OPEX sales and not CAPEX sales.

In SDI domain, we have launched an array of next generation Virtual Storage Products (VSPs). From core storage perspective, we launched VSP G200, G400, G600, and G800. We had also launched some time ago first-of-its-kind, storage virtualization operating system (SVOS), which means that any storage that HDS would come out with, will have a common operating system. This also means that compatibility with older generations will continue. Besides, we have also brought in a lot of intelligence, which were there in top-end storage products, downstream.

With the newest additions to the VSP family, HDS is the only IT vendor to address customer workload requirements from entry to the mainframe with a single software stack. Extending the reach of powerful software capabilities that are built into Hitachi SVOS allows the entire VSP family to offer native heterogeneous storage virtualization and multi-site active-active storage – as well as fully compatible data migration, replication and management. Customers now have the ability to choose systems based on the necessary capacity, performance and price required to meet their business goals, not because of functional difference.

Additionally, we launched converged solutions, called Unified Compute Platform (UCP) from HDS. However, converged by itself will not hold much water; and hence, we partnered with technology alliance partners like SAP for HANA, VMware for joint solutions, Microsoft, Citrix, and Oracle. Our whole idea is to get on a journey of making IT-as-a-Service and all these launches that we had is to accelerate this journey through application-led software-defined infrastructure.

Q. Looking at these developments, can we say that today HDS is a pure data-driven company?

Everything that we have done in the past, are doing now, and will do tomorrow is centred on data. Our charter is to liberate data from the infrastructure and location constraints and make it more mobile. And software-defined approach basically is towards this direction. We, at HDS, believe that technology should simplify operations by automation, drive insights by better access to information, and be agile by abstraction (removing the constraints of physical infrastructure and geographical locations). We do this because we have virtualization and we also know that data will outlive the infrastructure for sure. And that’s why we are in the business of making this data mobile.

Q. What’s the level of awareness amongst enterprises towards these software-defined technologies?

‘Software-defined’ as a word has been coined off late. For HDS, 50% of the business comes from software and services. And we have been in this software part of business since our inception. Virtualization as a technology has been with HDS for more than a decade and today, we are talking about 7th generation of virtualization. The whole world is trying to catch up with HDS and we are at least 4 generations ahead of them. The customers have chosen us because they have full confidence in our offerings. Here, we can say that all of our enterprise customers are aware of what we do and what we are capable of. With the coming of the word ‘software-defined’, we are just re-assuring the customers that they have already embarked on this journey long way back.

Most of the enterprises that we work with have been long-term customers for HDS. In this journey, we give them the necessary ROI and required intelligence. So, when you talk to our customers, they will definitely sound the same, as they have been reaping the benefits.

Q. What all efforts being put to capture the untapped market?

We completely believe in the power of partner community. As an organization, it’s an endeavour to be a 100% channels organization. Today, we totally depend upon the ‘feet-and-street’ of our partners. The efforts that we put are manifold. Firstly, we are a technology company and if our as well as partners’ sales team are not able to articulate our technology, then they will not be able to convince or send across the message that we want to give it to our customers. Hence, we put a lot of efforts towards enablement, making our partners as good, if not better than, as our sales team. So, whatever our sales people will undergo in terms of trainings and certifications, partners & his sales team will undergo as well. Our partners have access to all those information that the internal team has. We are as open as we can be.

The result for this effort is that they are as knowledgeable as us. And in most of the cases, they are able to articulate the same message to the customers that we want to convey. By virtue of this, we are able to go into new verticals, newer territories, and we are spreading our wings in this country.

One classic example here is that about 2 years ago, government vertical was distinctly missing from our radar. But today, we have made huge foray into this segment and close to 15% of India revenue comes from government. We have made this possible only with the help of our partners. We rode the wave with our system integrators and new sets of partners who have connections and associations with government agencies. We are using the partner bandwagon to expand in the market and by virtue of which, we are going to new CIOs and newer accounts.

So, we enable our partners, ensure that they are certified and adequately rewarded as well. We always keep them motivated so that they can go and get new accounts for HDS.

Q. Besides government, which are the other key verticals for HDS?

We are predominantly present in BFSI, which is the number one vertical for us followed by ITeS sector that largely contribute to our success in the country. Wherever there is a large management of data or massive scale up or down – is something we thrive on and those are our sweet spots so that the customer is no worried about IT but the business. And we can give them IT-as-a-Service. Besides, we are present in manufacturing sector along with telcos and host of other verticals.

Q. How are you ramping up your channel strategies around software-defined technologies?

Once the products are launched, we will either go to partners’ offices or invite them to our premises and take them deep dive into these software-defined technologies, make them understand the new products like VSP G200, G400, G600, and G800, and newer servers compute that we launched. Our endeavour is to make them aware of these, spend time with them explaining these technologies, how to position these technologies, and what kind of message to be given to the customers. We train them as much as we train our internal team. We not only teach but also equip them. We have a policy wherein we ‘teach a man to fish rather than giving him the fish’ so that he can sustain on his own and the whole machinery is well-oiled.

The next step is that we organize executive briefing forums across the country, where both our subject matter experts as well as partners’ top customers come together for 2 days and spend half a day with each customer. In these forums, customers share their pain areas and we try to address these concerns then and there itself. Then, we have joint lead generation program as well as new verticals that we address.

Q. What was the intent behind coming up with Hitachi Cloud Services Connection program?

Though the cloud implementations have been done across the board and verticals, we still came out with this program because there is a certain market where we don’t have the technology like SMB / SME, which are very price sensitive and require entry-level no frills attached products. And this is something which HDS will never come out with, as we don’t believe in cutting corners. But since this market needs to be addressed, we have an option of giving them the cloud.

This program is a public cloud offering built on HDS cloud infrastructure and solutions and managed by HDS for partners to resell. Built on proven Hitachi platforms and managed by HDS, partners can rebrand and resell cloud services while allowing their brand to be associated with a well-known, information solutions player.

HCSC goes well beyond today’s cloud service by offering customers the experience, knowledge, solutions and enterprise-class features in one package, using an ITIL-certified, low latency, and local data centre architecture with strong support.

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