Competing as an “Other” in Vertical Markets; Interview with Rorke Data VP of Sales, Bob Herzan, Part I

Rorke Data provides storage solutions and outsourcing services to high-end vertical markets such as medical imaging and surveillance. In this interview, VP of Sales Bob Herzan explains how Rorke Data competes with traditional storage companies by fitting into an “other” market segment by offering tier-one features at tier-two pricing. The company also provides evaluation products and a lab where its value-added resellers can conduct proof of concept trials.

Joshua: Rorke Data–you’re a division of Avnet focused on the storage segment within the IT industry?

Bob: Rorke Data is storage solutions. It grew up supporting very high-end vertical markets. So, media and entertainment, medical imaging, digital publishing, security and surveillance–all core markets that were about high-performance, unstructured data management. It really drove bleeding-edge technologies.

And then when we became part of Avnet, and even prior to that when we were part of Bell, we brought certain aspects of the product line into the general market segment, because the product line was meeting requirements that a lot of the IT [information technology]-centric products didn’t, as there was so much more unstructured data now coming into IT centers that needed the expertise of what we had been doing all along.

So we started to have a lot of success in cooperation with Avnet in driving our Galaxy RAID [redundant array of independent disks] product line, and then some of the suites of software that we’ve got to complete the solutions. And that’s where it’s been becoming apparent that if we can drive a much more professional VAR [value-added reseller] program in that industry, we should be able to drive more branding all in all for both sides.

Joshua: Would you say that some of your competitors would be the traditional storage companies like NetApp and HP and EMC? Are you competing for business in their market?

Bob: It’s a really big market out there. So, sure. You fall into some competitive situations.

But with the tier-one guys, I wouldn’t say we compete head to head with them. We fall into a market segment that’s considered “other” when it comes to storage. So when you look at the data out there, you’ve got the top five, six tier-one companies that take up 60 to 70 percent of the storage market.

And then there’s this huge other part of the industry called “other.” That’s more where we fit. But we give feature sets that the NetApps and EMCs of the world have.

So, [we offer] high performance, scalability, and the professional services behind it to support it. So we’ve got all these tier-one feature sets to the product line, but at a price point of tier two. That’s where we fit into that “other” segment.

Joshua: You’re definitely competing, maybe not as a tier one, but you have products for this area. And they might need to be assessed in line with some of these other products.

Bob: I would say when NetApp had taken over LSI, that product line [the Engenio external storage systems], I think we’d see a lot more competition.

Joshua: Why don’t we talk about what you’re able to do with regard to demonstration equipment, because that’s a challenge VARs have: people want to do proof of concepts. Talk about what you are able to do with this new program for your partners.

Bob: I absolutely agree. Touch and feel is so extremely important when you’re trying to pick up a new VAR, or for that VAR to try to get a customer convinced.

Throughout the years we’ve done a really good job of making sure that we’ve got product available for our partners. We do it in various ways.

Sometimes it’s just a straight out loan. They need to see the product tested. It gets them comfortable that this is a product that they can get behind. And so we’ll eval [evaluate] product out to them so that they can do that.

Once they’re committed, then we put together a program where they can purchase evaluation equipment at a very high discount. They can do that twice a year. They can turn it after six months, as well, and recoup their investment and then do it again.

So, we try to keep as many people as we can up-to-date with product in their own facilities, because that’s where they’re going to be able to show it off the best. We’ll also back them up by leaving that eval equipment in there if we run into opportunities with large customers that need to eval the product. We’ll help them out in that regard, as well.

Now, with all of that said, one of the key advantages that we have as a company–a company that has several different products and supports several different markets–is a very in-depth [Rorke] Interoperability SAN Lab that our VARs can come in and use and do proof of concept. There’s lots of technology there that they can just come in remotely and be able to see and play with and tweak. We’ve got a lot of different applications here that they would be using out in the field so they can get a true proof of concept on, as well.

In part II of this interview series, Rorke Data VP of Sales Bob Herzan explains the difference between its authorized and premier resellers and how it engages in co-branding with its partners to customize collateral for maximum impact.

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