**Editor’s Note: “7 Minutes” is a feature where we ask channel executives from startups – or companies that may be new to the Channel Partners audience – a series of quick questions about their businesses and channel programs.**
Nexsan sells unified storage and secure archive systems under the flagship Unity banner, as well as its Transporter private cloud file sync-and-share appliances, exclusively through its Essentials global partner program. Storage is a crowded space, but this month the company took home Storage Product of the Year honors for Unity at the 2017 Storage Awards, and in April, Unity passed the 100-installation milestone eight months after it began shipping in September 2016, with no signs of slowing: Bookings in Q1 2017 grew 215 percent over Q3 2016.
Another selling point is potential sticker shock among customers using public cloud storage services and concern over outages and security; a case in point is the recent RNC breach that exposed data on 200 million voters stored on AWS S3.
We caught up with Nexsan CMO Victoria Grey, who is responsible for worldwide marketing, including channel enablement. Grey shared some customer endorsements, including from CalTech and Case Western Reserve University. CalTech senior systems engineer Eugean Hacopians estimates Nexsan’s hardware reliability at more than 99.9 percent over the past seven years, while Case Western senior technical lead Brian Christian says the products offered the best price/performance of any solution he evaluated, along with scalability.
Channel Partners: Tell us what customers love about your product or service. What’s the secret selling sauce?
Victoria Grey: Customers love that whatever their data storage needs and budgets are, Nexsan has a solution. We offer the most robust data storage solutions portfolio in the industry. From our Unity product, the industry’s only hyper-unified storage system, to our modular high density E-Series, Beast workhorse storage and our Assureon secure archive, Nexsan has a variety of efficient storage solutions to meet customers’ exacting and unique business, IT and budgetary requirements.
When it comes to Unity specifically, our flagship product, Nexsan is the only vendor that is offering not only unified storage that includes both block and file, but also enterprise file sync and share (EFSS), n-way sync and integration with a secure archive. For other vendors to deliver this, it requires the addition of several different applications and add-ons, all of which increases both cost and complexity. With Nexsan, all these features are included and tightly integrated for a turnkey deployment and superior customer experience. For partners this means a unique offering that differentiates them in the market place.
Nearly daily, we hear from CIOs and CISOs who are concerned about the proliferation of unauthorized mobility “solutions” within the workplace: the use of tools like Dropbox and Google Drive. There are many security risks that come with storing crucial company data within these cloud-based platforms. With Unity, we provide companies with the same seamless file-access ability something like Dropbox provides, but without the risks as all data is stored on-premises.
That fact that we do this, integrate universal mobility into the core operating system of a unified storage filer, is completely unique, and with several millions of dollars in total revenue and over 100 installations since the product launched in September 2016, customers are clearly very eager to see the associated benefits, including continuous replication and the ability to synchronize file systems at any number of Unity sites.
CP: Describe your channel program — metal levels, heavy on certifications, open or selective, unique features?
VG: Nexsan has been a 100-percent channel company since the beginning, and in fact, many of our earliest partners are still with us today, 18 years later. We believe in offering our partners strong margins, sales enablement, deal registration, marketing support, training, MDF funds and more to help them be successful with our solutions. We offer a multi-tier program designed to meet the needs of each partner, and in some geographies partners can choose to go direct or through distribution. We offer online training tools to enable both sales and support capabilities, and partners can resell our support and professional services for additional solutions and margin opportunities.
CP: Quick-hit answers: Percentage of sales through the channel, number of partners, average margin. Go.
VG: We sell 100 percent through the channel, we’re almost to about 2,000 partners globally and average margins are 25 percent.
CP: Who are your main competitors, and what makes your offering better?
VG: On the Unity side, we see all the standard unified storage players you might expect, from Dell EMC to HPE to NetApp. What differentiates us is how Unity is unified storage plus: plus EFSS, plus n-way sync and plus integration with Unity Active Archive.
Customers also find themselves weighing the pros and cons of public cloud storage providers like Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure vs. on-premises. Some organizations are quick to utilize public cloud tools for the entirety of their data needs, oftentimes due to the common misconception that public cloud storage is far more affordable than on-premises. In reality, our on-premises solutions are not only more affordable than public cloud storage, they also eliminate the security risks of keeping crucial and sensitive data offsite. Customers need to consider carefully and strategically where they store their data to ensure security, control and to manage costs.
CP: How do you think your technology portfolio will change in the next three years?
VG: We recently added new all-flash configurations as part of our newest next generation Unity launch, and we plan to expand these all-flash offerings in the coming months. Additionally, when it comes to cloud, we currently work primarily in private and hybrid cloud environments, but as we work with more and more customers leveraging public cloud tools, we’re looking into public cloud-compatible features as well.
There are constantly emerging technologies that offer greater performance, higher density and more flexibility for storage that we are always evaluating. Additionally, we are investing heavily in our unique software to enhance collaboration, sharing and file access features for customers.
CP: How do you expect your channel strategy to evolve over that timeframe?
VG: It is our intention to not only recruit, onboard and enable new partners in the coming years, but to also engage more deeply with our current channel. We are doing this through several means: better, more timely communication; customer promotions that are sponsored by Nexsan but only fulfilled through the channel; SPIFs that align our goals with the channel’s drive for new customers; increased MDF funding; and co-marketing support. We intend to grow our channel business in the double-digit range.
CP: What didn’t we ask that partners should know?
VG: Within our partner ecosystem we have a select group of industry-leading solution providers, technology partners and OEMs. Each partner is personally selected to join the partner team, and represent the Nexsan portfolio, after careful evaluation of expertise, geographic coverage and solution focus. We work closely with partners on product training, marketing, sales and presales technical support.