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As a provider of storage systems on an OEM basis to some of the largest companies in the industry, American Megatrends Inc. enjoyed years of profitability just by focusing mainly on manufacturing, rather than selling storage.

But as is often the case in this business, the larger vendors in IT inevitably look to build their own storage systems, either from the ground up or by acquiring a vendor in the category that has reached a point where the technology in question is deemed strategic.

Not too long after that event, the OEM provider of that technology almost invariably launches a channel program as part of an effort to compete with vendors that were once its customers.

That scenario is playing out at AMI. This week, AMI launched a PROFIT channel program as part of an effort to recruit about a hundred solution providers to resell its All-Flash, hybrid and magnetic disk storage systems.

AMI will pursue a fairly structured approach to the channel as part of an effort to reward partners for loyalty to the company, according to Justin Bagby, director of the StorTrends Division of AMI. In return for keeping the number of solution providers reselling AMI offerings small, the company plans to give solution providers an additional qualified lead for every lead they bring in.

In addition, Bagby noted that its internal sales representatives are all paid in salary rather than commission, which means they have no incentive to compete with partners for business.

The challenge facing AMI, of course, is that storage is a pretty crowded field where most resellers already have established relationships. One thing that distinguishes AMI is that it provides tools that help solution providers in the channel work with customers to identify what data sets they have that are hotter than others, Bagby said. Armed with that information, AMI partners can then help customers better optimize where to store data based on the actual performance requirements of a particular application.

Whether AMI can successfully compete against much larger rivals by embracing the channel is yet to be determined. But at a time when most providers of data storage products are over-distributed, Bagby is betting that there are more than a few solution providers looking for an alternative set of products to differentiate themselves from all the rest.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.