"The big will get bigger, the small will get wiped out" is a phrase that could describe how the recent run of mergers and acquisitions have changed the storage vendor landscape over the past 12 months.
In that time, hardware giants EMC, HP and Dell have all splashed the cash buying up independent storage players Isilon, 3Par and Compellent respectively.
According to a report by analyst Forrester last month, entitled Blockbuster Deals Reshape The Storage World, this trend looks set to continue.
"Storage is a critical category that requires lots of vendor investment, so financial instability and limited resources can be deal-breakers for many small vendors [in their decision to be acquired] even though they have great technology," states the report.
"The key trend here is that more storage solutions will be sold by huge comprehensive vendors than by small, innovative independents."
Tim Pitcher, EMEA director of HP-3Par, was part of the executive team at 3Par when it was acquired by HP, following a lengthy bidding war with Dell last September.
For VARs that have thrown their weight behind these smaller independents, being acquired has a number of upsides, he claimed.
"When we were independent, we had a great technological proposition, but some end users were wary because they wanted assurances that we would still be around in years to come," he explained. "Having the power, scale and reach of HP behind the 3Par channel has made end users more willing to invest."
Marcos Burnett, director of EMEA sales at independent Ethernet SAN vendor Coraid, said, in some cases, being acquired can have dire consequences for smaller vendors' partners.
So much so that of the 10 partners Coraid has in the UK, Burnett said half are casualties from other vendor mergers.
"There can be a culture clash when a small company joins a larger one, or differences in opinion as to how things should be run, which can lead to personnel leaving," he explained. "If these are people partners are used to dealing with regularly, it can have a detrimental effect on the relationship they have with that vendor."
Additionally, partners that have joined a larger vendor's fold as a result of an acquisition sometimes end up feeling sidelined.
"It can be difficult for people who have led with certain products for many years to get to grips with the fact that, now the company that makes the products they sell has been acquired, there are suddenly lots more people competing for the same business," he said.
"They want assurances that the customers they have always sold into will remain theirs, but that is not always the case."
Kathy Schneider, director of channel marketing and programmes at Dell, agreed that customer ownership is an important issue for larger vendors to address when welcoming new partners on board.
"We offer a deal registration programme that provides partners with discount pricing and other incentives for as long as they sell a particular product line into a customer, which is designed to protect them against our direct sales team and other Dell partners," she explained.
n the case of Dell's buyout of Compellent, which completed last December, she said the firm has adopted key features of its new addition's partner programme to help ease the transition.
"We have tried to make it as easy as possible for [VARs] to be trained up and start selling the rest of the Dell product portfolio, if that is what they want to do," she said.
"I cannot say there has definitely not been any defection [of Compellent partners], but I certainly have not heard of any."
Compellent VAR Atlanta Technology recently announced that it was throwing its weight behind the Dell merger by becoming a member of its Preferred Partner Programme.
Simon Kelson, the firm's managing director, said he had some initial misgivings about joining Dell because of its reputation for taking deals direct, but he is now glad that his firm did.
"We now have access to a massive product portfolio that allows us to serve the needs of our customers more broadly, which is having a positive impact on our revenue," he said.
"Dell's people have also made a real effort to get to know our business, and that has really impressed us," he added.
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