The boss of Data Solutions has described the Irish distributor's first year in the UK as "challenging, but very enjoyable" as he admitted that last June's Brexit vote has slowed decision-making among end users based here.
Data Solutions launched a Reading office last February after bagging the UK rights to Nutanix, and has since added Cohesity as a second vendor on this side of the Irish Sea.
Group managing director Michael O'Hara told CRN that this means it has on board the two leading vendors in hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), a market he claimed was under-addressed in the UK before Data Solutions' arrival.
Founded in 1991, Dublin-based Data Solutions is one of Ireland's leading storage distributors, with 22 staff and revenues topping €30m (£26.5m).
The firm is confident its UK business will help drive its sales to €80m within three years, but O'Hara (pictured) admitted not everything has gone its way here in the first 18 months, with the Brexit vote slowing decision making.
"We're not where we initially set our target, but we are growing nicely and this year we will recover a lot of that," he said.
"We set up, and the UK voted for Brexit. All we know is Brexit. I would say that business is very strong in the UK, even in the Brexit market, but what we've seen is a little bit of uncertainty. We are seeing the deals we are working on taking longer than expected to close, but they are not going away."
Data Solutions currently has two UK-based staff, with initial UK managing director Shaun Fane no longer with the firm, but O'Hara said headcount is slated to increase to 10 over the next two years in line with its growing order book. Most UK functions are backed off to Dublin, including marketing, an area where O'Hara claimed Data Solutions boasts a strong differentiator over other HCI distributors.
"Our focus in the UK is really on HCI, and when we look at that market we feel it's not been very well addressed in the UK," he said.
"In the UK, there are some really good partners that have a strong marketing pedigree. But a lot of partners are very good from a sales and technical point of view, but aren't really the best at getting their message out to the customers. They are not great at marketing. That's the value we bring. We've found a lot of partners stick with us because we are continually doing demand generation activities to create opportunities that we can bring to them."
The HCI market is growing exponentially, O'Hara added.
"Gartner reckons in five years' time it will be the mainstream system. Nutanix are the market leaders in primary storage and then we've got Cohesity, who are considered the leader in hyperconvergence secondary storage: we feel we have the two best vendors in that space," he said.
"We've been going through a huge educational experience in bringing on partners and educating them technically, but also around the Nutanix message. We are creating opportunities rather than just saying 'it's a plaque on the wall'. Because we are specialised, we have a read on pretty much all the deals we are working on."
Data Solutions is not the first Irish distributor to expand into the UK market, with Commtech making the leap in 2012. CMS Distribution is another VAD with roots in both the UK and Ireland.
O'Hara argued that the mentality of Irish firms may give them an edge over competitors in the UK.
"I'm only speaking from a Data Solutions point of view, but the Irish market is small so you're very much hands-on with the opportunities that come up," he said. "I'm not trying to be derogatory to the UK distributors, but it's difficult to be touchy-feely on all the deals out there. But what we bring is the focus. We're not trying to be another Tech Data; we are sticking to the knitting of the stuff we are good at. The feedback from partners we get is that they like that approach, and were maybe not getting that as much as they would like from the current players.
"We have set ourselves the goal of tripling our business in the next three years, which is not a silly thing to suggest at all. Growth will come predominantly from the UK and we feel very bullish that we will achieve it."
Chief exec Jens Montanana claims Logicalis performed well despite 'currency headwinds'
All the photos from last night's event, which saw over 600 people congregate at the Hilton London Bankside
Five year deal with Essex NHS Trust will cover 400 sites, including hospitals, clinics and GP practices
18 individuals and three companies walked away as winners at CRN's inaugural Women in Channel Awards last night