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SanDisk rolled out its first enterprise channel program in a move aimed at helping the company gain a leg up in the marketplace, particularly for flash storage in the data center.

After the buyout last year of Fusion-io, a provider of flash storage that plugs directly into servers, it became apparent that SanDisk needed a channel program for partners focused on enterprise IT customers, said Ken Oberman, vice president of worldwide business channel sales at SanDisk. The move would help the company expand the base of partners selling its products and services, he added.

“We’ve created the classic three-tier channel model,” Oberman said. “We’re looking for partners that really specialize in the data center.

In addition to providing partners with access to sales enablement and marketing development funds (MDF), the SanDisk Enterprise Reseller Partner Program also rewards partners that work with the company to achieve specific sales goals with deeper discounts, Oberman said. In addition, solution providers that wind up selling SanDisk storage products via one of the company’s OEM partners will receive credit for those efforts in the SanDisk program, he said.

SanDisk needs a strong enterprise partner program because competition in the data center is especially fierce. With primary storage increasingly moving from magnetic storage to flash, every server and storage vendor now offers some type of flash storage product. The challenge is that the buyer of flash storage that plugs into a server in the data center is not often the same person who acquired magnetic storage in a flash array.

SanDisk needs partners that have relationships with both server and storage administrators at a time when the purchasing process surrounding primary storage is in a state of flux, Oberman said.

Most recently, SanDisk moved to further destabilize demand for magnetic storage with the launch of a flash storage offering for servers that is priced below $1 per GB. Oberman said that because SanDisk manufactures flash memory, it has more control over pricing of flash storage and preferred access to a technology that is increasingly becoming difficult to source at a time when demand for flash memory from manufacturers of consumer devices is at an all-time high.

While flash storage on a server is not capable of supporting the volume of data that can be stored on a storage array, IT organizations are finding that flash storage is simpler to manage. Rather than having to optimize the placement of data on a spinning disk to maximize I/O performance, all the applications that reside on a server get access to local primary storage in a way that doesn’t require nearly as much administrative overhead.

It remains to be seen to what degree SanDisk can usurp business from more established storage vendors in the enterprise. However, between its OEM relationships and channel partners, it appears that SanDisk is maneuvering itself into position to do just that.

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.