Canadian system builders and resellers now have another source for buying Hitachi hard drives for storage arrays and PCs.

Synnex Canada has picked up the entire line of Hitachi drives from its Global Storage Technologies (GTS) division as the manufacturer tries to increase its small market

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Jim Estill, the distributor’s chief executive officer, said that while it already carries hard drives from most leading manufacturers, he is most interested that Hitachi’s lineup includes enterprise-class drives.

“The high-end storage market is fairly hot,” he said. “From a reseller’s perspective it’s great to get into a market that’s growing at 30 to 40 per cent a year.”

Hitachi already had a U.S. distribution deal with Synnex Canada’s parent, Synnex Corp.

The agreement includes one-inch, 2.5-in and 3.5-in. drives, known as the Microdrive, Travelstar, Deskstar, Enduastar and Ultrastar product lines.

With the deal Hitachi now has two major hard drive distributors here. The other is Bell Microproducts.

“We’ve been increasing our focus on Canada in the past 12 to 18 months,” said Barbara Cook, a channel development manager for GTS, Hitachi’s hard drive division.

“Synnex has great customer support capabilities, really understands system builders. We’re going to rely on it to provide inroads into that community.”

According to Jennifer Ewan, a storage analyst at Evans Research, Hitachi’s sales here are lagging behind better-known names.

In the first quarter of this year, Hitachi had a sizable market share in only one of the three sizes tracked by the market research company.

There were 507,000 hard drives sold in that quarter. In the 3.5-in. drive market, Maxtor held a 33 per cent share, followed by Western Digital with 28 per cent and Seagate with 23 per cent. Hitachi was fifth with three per cent.

In the 2.5-in. market, Fujitsu owned 51 per cent of the market, with Hitachi second with 20 per cent and Samsung with 18 per cent.

In the SCSI drive market, Seagate dominated with about 75 per cent of the sales.

Recently Hitachi’s been aggressively pricing its 3.5-in. drives, Ewan said, trying to increase sales. Traditionally, Hitachi’s major market has been OEM manufacturers, she said, a strategy boosted when the company bought IBM’s hard drive division over a year ago.

But with the popularity of better-known brands such as Seagate and Maxtor, it has had trouble pushing into the components business.

Hitachi also doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to the Canadian market, she said. The Synnex Canada deal “may signal a change.”

Cook acknowledged Hitachi hard drive sales aren’t strong here, but noted the division is only three years old. It has taken time to set up a support infrastructure here, including the creation of return depots in Burnaby,B.C. and Oakville, Ont.

“Now that’s all ready to go we’re going to focus on increasing our brand awareness,” she said. That included attending February’s CompTIA Breakway for system builders in Ottawa.

“We want our channel customers to be storage experts, vertical market experts . . . We like our customers to think big,” she said. For example, the company works closely with Calgary’s Voodoo Computers Inc., which specializes in leading edge gaming computers. “They’re always asking us for something really crazy and outside the box. We really like to work with customers like that.”

Another niche is the video security industry, which needs high capacity hard drives for storing images.

Asked what Hitachi would like to see for its effort 12 months from now, Cook replied, “We have a lot of growth to do. I think we’d be happy if we could double our market share.”

Estill said in the near future Synnex Canada will host storage seminars for its partners to help boost Hitachi sales. In addition, staff has been dedicated to generating demand for the Hitachi line. “They’ll help resellers figure out how to sell it,” he said.

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