Bell Microproducts Canada Inc. says it hopes a deal it recently inked with IBM Canada Ltd. will lead to broader opportunities for Canadian VARs selling storage solutions.

Under the terms of the agreement, Bell Micro will now provide VARs with solutions from IBM offerings of SAN, NAS, RAID,

LTO and the eServer xSeries family. According to Michael Mercer, vice president of enterprise solutions with Markham, Ont.-based Bell Micro, the xSeries portion of the deal is unique to Canada.

“Bell Micro in the United states does not have this yet,” Mercer explained. “This is our first foray into servers so we’re very excited about that.”

Previously, the distributor had focused entirely on the storage marketplace, but times are changing, Mercer said.

Although Bell Micro has always considered itself “server-agnostic” and has never sold or supported a server line, “we’re at the point now with our storage business that we’re sort of dragging our need for servers. Our storage business is causing a requirement for us to have servers,” said Mercer. He added that the xSeries will be the only server line Bell Micro will offer.

“We now have the ability to sell IBM storage both on and off platform; so from that standpoint, it is a storage line to us,”” he continued. “”When [that storage is] coupled with servers . . . we have the ability to just further round out the solution offering.”

Kyle Foster, general manager of storage sales for Markham, Ont.-based IBM Canada, told CDN most customers he talks to these days are focused on at least one of two storage issues: business efficiency, which involves containing costs; and business continuance, where availability of systems is of utmost importance.

In addition, storage itself is an information technology infrastructure undergoing a lot of change. Two key areas, he said, are experiencing the most impact: the growing use of applications such as e-mail, digital media or online video; and the change in options customers now have to deploy storage.

“Customers are now looking to network their storage together to help drive better cost control and better systems availability so that technology supports a different way of deploying storage,” Foster said.

All of these factors create challenges for today’s storage customers, including storage consolidation, where “customers are trying to pool storage behind all of their servers in the environment, to drive better manageability, better asset utilization, [and to] simplify management of that critical resource in business,” Foster said. Data access, protection and disaster tolerance are also high on customers’ lists, he added.

Foster said customers, resellers and distributors are attracted to the breadth of IBM’s storage portfolio and set of solutions. “When you tackle these problems, consolidation and data access or protection or disaster tolerance, you can’t just fix it with one approach or strategy.” he said.

Mercer said Bell Micro, through its STORMe (storage for medium enterprise) program, is actively recruiting VARs.

“We are really looking at people who haven’t thought of IBM as a storage company. So many people think of IBM in so many different ways. Our approach is to lead with [IBM’s] storage offering, and there has been a great deal of interest with that in the marketplace.”

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