One of the largest enterprise storage vendors is turning over the bulk of its services business to the channel starting at the end of this month.

“”We are now going to begin certifying partners to deliver services we’ve been delivering,”” said Charlie Wallace, director of global channel marketing

for Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

There is a catch: 350 of its biggest customers are off limits. They will still receive consulting and installation services from Hitachi’s Global Solutions Services staff. But all other clients will be up for grabs.

The change in the company’s TrueNorth partner program is an extension of Hitachi’s strategy to drive all hardware and software business through the channel, said Wallace.

VARs should be pleased he said: “”Profit on a service is very strong and doesn’t have the same price-per-megabyte decline as we’ve seen in storage for the past several years.””

Hitachi has 45 partners in Canada. Its main products are the Lightning and Thunder storage systems, as well as storage area network and network attached storage solutions.

The new services program will be rolled out in three stages to give VARs an opportunity to learn and be certified.

Officially, they won’t be on their own until April 1. But starting December 1, partners will be technically able to sell services on Hitachi equipment. However, they’ll be able to watch as Hitachi staff do the work for 90 days, a sort of on the job training. Hitachi will do this for free, paying the partner a commission.

In January, Hitachi will begin training partner engineers to deliver services at one of its four North American education facilities (one of which is in Toronto) at a yet to be determined cost.

Those certified will be able to “”jump out of the nest, and fly on their own,”” in Wallace’s words, by the beginning of April.

Not all of HDS’s 70 service offerings, which range from doing evaluations to repairs, will be picked up by partners, Wallace said. Some may decide to sell only, sell and deliver, or sell and co-deliver services with Hitachi.

Initially, Hitachi will let partners offer 11 of the 70 packaged services, including enablement and implementation of Hitachi ShadowImage software, and HiCommand Tuning Manager and Device Manager.

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