Kimberly King says the storage vendor has become more responsive to partners.

Jeffrey Schwartz

December 13, 2021

10 Min Read

Hitachi Vantara is now responding to partners faster on several fronts, according to Kimberly King, the storage vendor’s channel chief. King said Hitachi has expedited quoting and deal approvals, simplified deal registration, made training concise and added more marketing content.

King, Hitachi Vantara’s senior VP of strategic partners and alliances, quantified the benefits of those improvements last week. Among them, the company now approves more than 60% of all partner deals within an hour.

In addition, Hitachi is now providing more content on its marketing hub, including more localization. That has resulted in a 1,127% increase in logins and a 1,300% boost in marketing activity this year.


Hitachi Vantara’s Kimberly King

King also noted that early returns based on recent upgrades to Hitachi’s deal registration system has resulted in a 115% increase in deals registered and closed year over year.

Hitachi has reduced the duration of learning content, with sessions as short as just 5 minutes. The longest sessions are no more than an hour. As a result, the number of partners that have used Hitachi’s learning modules has increased fourfold, according to King. Between July and November, she noted that partners engaged with 43,320 learning modules.

Since launching its Partner Connect digital selling platform last year, the number of deal registrations increased 324% and monthly logins grew 225%. The milestones, outlined in a blog posted late last week, make her case that the changes implemented are working.

Meanwhile, Hitachi recently refreshed its Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) portfolio with upgraded VSP 5000 series and E Series hardware.  A new version of the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) object storage software is also now available. In a recent interview with Channel Futures, King discussed the inroads Hitachi Vantara has made in 2021, including the addition of 400 new partners. Here’s an edited except of that interview.

Channel Futures: How would you characterize the current state of the Hitachi Vantara partner ecosystem this year?

Kimberly King: We’ve been expanding our ecosystem of partners. I would say we’ve probably added about 400 new partners across the world. We’re expanding aggressively, everywhere.

CF: What type of partners have you brought on?

KK: A little bit of everything. A lot of resellers and some new VARs, and we’ve consolidated our distributors. We’ve also added a lot of cloud service provider partners around the world. Typically, we were working with Computer Center and ThinkOn and CBTS and a bunch of the other sort of well-known names, and now we’ve expanded out from there. So Logicalis is now creating a virtual storage-as-a-service solution with us, and they’re going to market in South Africa. We’re looking to do the same things in Latin America and other parts of the world.

CF: As it pertains to your traditional VARs and resellers, are they shifting to the as-a-service model or are they still focused on reselling?

KK: A little bit of both. They want to move to as-a-service, and I think the easier we make it with our EverFlex licensing model, they can do that and not have the requirement of a huge outlay. But they’re leveraging what the customer wants to do versus us demanding that they move to this model.

CF: How would you break down where customers are today?

KK: I would say probably about 40% of what we’re seeing is moving more to as-a-service or cloud. It’s not quite up to the 50%, 60%, 70% or 100% levels. A lot of folks are talking about it going that high; I just don’t see that happening just yet.

CF: When do you see it happening?

KK: I don’t know if I ever see it being 100%. I think we’ve been talking about …

… cloud for a long time. It’s kind of like, the mainframe was supposed to be dead 20 years ago, and yet the mainframe is still alive and well, right in the back office of many big financial Institutions. But I would say we will probably get closer to 60% cloud by 2025 and that will be a hybrid model. It will depend on the workload and the service offering.

CF: What will drive the shift in the coming years?

KK: The economic buyers will make a difference in this. It’s not just IT that are deciding on this. It’s also financial, it’s marketing and it’s the manufacturing people who are buying that complete service and solution. And they are raising the question of whether to use AWS or Azure. Or do they do it from a local, more comprehensive partner like a Computer Center that offers that more boutique engagement that provides them the solution? I think you’ll start to see more and more of that across the industry. And it won’t even feel like it’s a shift. I think we’ve already seen a lot of that. But I think it’ll happen more rapidly, especially with digital transformation and more people working from home and remote.

CF: In what ways have you advanced your relationships with AWS, Microsoft and Google Cloud?

KK: We have a great relationship with each of them. Each one is slightly different. With Microsoft, we have really expanded our gold relationship. And we’re growing that significantly. When you look at Hitachi Vantara, we’re a different organization too because we have our industrial solutions. We actually have services that we wrap around with application modernization and migration to the cloud.

CF: Are there specific industries that are moving faster than others?

KK: We’re looking at manufacturing insights, health care as a service, transportation, government, all verticalized solutions that map to partner solutions. And we’re tying those altogether, where then the back-end infrastructure and support would be all Hitachi Vantara. So we provide them with that full-stack solution. In addition to Microsoft Azure, we’re seeing that same sort of replication happened with AWS.

CF: How about Google Cloud?

KK: Google is a little different. We see them more as an enterprise support partner for many of our enterprise customers who are moving away from the others where they feel that they don’t have as much control. They want to move to more of a private cloud engagement that has scalability. These customers prefer the Google Cloud operating model. We’re completely certified on each of those platforms. And we’re continuing to have development conversations, expanding our solutions.

CF: Where do you see AWS preferred most?

KK: I see them in the middle. Microsoft has these great industrial solutions where their model is a verticalized go to market, which is fantastic. It aligns up with a lot of what we’re doing — ranging from boutique to very high end, with Google Cloud and AWS in the middle. We’ve been working with partners on a lot of application migration and modernization services.

CF: Are you working with other clouds?

KK: We do a ton of work on our digital solution side with Oracle. We do Oracle migrations, and we also do SAP, where we have a lot of services. And we engage with SAP in helping their customers migrate to the cloud, to work with whichever hyperscaler they want to work with, or wherever they go on their own back end, or even work with colocation facilities like Equinix.

CF: What kind of enablement and training have you added?

KK: We have our partner Technical Advisory Community. That community is made up of hundreds of technical resources within all of our partner communities. We also have upgraded our entire partner portal which we call our digital selling platform. That rolled out about a year ago, and we’ve seen massive adoption. We’ve created microlearning for our partners versus having to …

… take four days of training. Everything that’s microlearning is at their pace — super quick. And again, because our platform, and our operating system is the same across our entire portfolio, it’s easy for them to understand the new features, solutions, and how customers can adopt it.

CF: Have partners embraced the microlearning?

KK: We’ve seen partners go from in the hundreds to being trained and certified to thousands. In the first three months, we had about 35,000 modules taken across a couple of thousands of partners. Between that and what we call our partner velocity pricing, which is an AI-based pricing tool that allows our partners to go in and self-approve their quotes, look at all the operations, their margins and incentives that are tied to it. And we’ve seen that just for profitability, our partners are getting double digit margins on many of our products out there, which I think is fantastic, and why we’re seeing such an uptick in new partner adoption.

CF: Speaking of the new partners that you’ve brought on this year; how many more are you looking to bring on and 2022?

KK: Probably about the same, maybe a little bit more, but we will be taking some out.  We will do that in the fourth quarter, so for us that’s January to end of March, where we’ll look at our existing ecosystem.

CF: You mentioned earlier that you realigned your distributor relationships. Does that mean you are consolidating there?

KK: Yes, though less so in the Americas and EMEA. We have great relationships with Arrow and Tech Data in both EMEA and the Americas. Where we had challenges were really outside of those big markets, like Latin America and Asia, where we had a distributor in every country, which is not really effective for us, or really effective for that community or for partners. They’re not getting the same level of experience. So we’re really looking at working with both Tech Data and Arrow in each of the big geographies to decide what’s the best leverage point and how we work more collaboratively with them to cover a global market. And in APAC, we’re looking at the same thing, really consolidating into the geos.

CF: How many distributors did you have?

KK: We had around 17 distributors in Latin America. We’re going to get down to two. And that’s what we’ve been focusing on — the really big ones and [fewer] niche partners so we can drive consistency, scale, adoption and growth in those markets where we think that we have a great opportunity, and we are under penetrated from our perspective.

CF: Regarding Tech Data, what have you seen in the few months since they completed their merger with Synnex?  

KK: It’s been really great. We’ve invested with them to recruit new partners across the board. They really looked across their ecosystem of who would be a good partner, and how we could best collaborate with them.

CF: What other noteworthy changes did you make this year?

KK: In the beginning of our fiscal year, this past April, we changed our sales model. We sell with partners already, probably close to 80% across the board. But in our commercial market, which is our platinum, enterprise and commercial, it’s 100% partner-led. We engage every opportunity across, and so we’re seeing territory adoption. Our inside sales folks and our partner managers, along with the distribution really focusing on that long tail of customers and partners in that market — we’re seeing a lot of new adoption there.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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