While various news outlets branded this year's edition of Macworld a ho-hum affair, channel business continued behind the scenes-- much of it in storage.
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Macworld Conference & Expo 2009 famously lacked a Steve Jobs keynote and much in the way of ground-breaking announcements but the company did debut a 17-inch MacBook Pro, eliminate DRM restrictions from its song catalog. And, it updated its office productivity and multimedia software. A number of vendors aiming Mac storage solutions at such market niches as video and broadcasting. Such specialized vendors used Macworld as an occasion to reach out to OEMs and resellers.
Active Storage Inc., a Torrance, Calif. firm that makes RAID storage systems for Apple users, announced at Macworld the first group of companies to join its partner solutions program.
The goal of the program is to "test, integrate and qualify partner solutions with our storage as an anchor," noted Skip Levens, vice president of business development at Active Storage. The company's solutions partners include Bakbone Software, Tandberg Data, Cloverleaf Communications, Building4Media/Primestream, QLogic and APC. At Macworld, Active Storage demonstrated a disk-to-disk-to-tape tiered storage solution with Tandberg and Bakbone.
The integrated partner solutions will provide Active Storage resellers with sales tools -- solutions briefs and deployment diagrams, among others. The program is also a way to "reassure the reseller and the customer of compatibility and performance," Levens said.
He also said Active Storage, which targets such market segments as video post-production, broadcast and education, works with several dozen resellers. The company recently expanded its channel effort into the United Kingdom with the signing of Jigsaw Systems Ltd., an Apple and Adobe reseller.
JMR Electronics Inc., a Chatsworth, Calif. storage vendor, showed Mac-compatible systems for what the company describes as "video and data intensive applications." The company sells through OEMs, resellers, and government contractors.
The company's Macworld line up included its 16-bay BlueStor PeSAN RAID and 8-bay BlueStor 888 desktop storage solution. Also exhibiting at Macworld was Sonnet Technologies Inc., an Irvine, Calif. vendor of local storage systems for the film, video and broadcast industries. Sonnet Technologies has an OEM arrangement with JMR, using BlueStor 888 in its Sonnet DX800RAID solution. That RAID system was introduced in December.
Steve Katz, vice president of sales and marketing at JMR, said OEMs "are becoming our channel for those [desktop] products."
JMR's higher end BlueStor PeSAN provides direct-attached PCI storage, using PCI Express RAID cards. Katz said the BlueStor PeSAN requires some training to deploy, adding that JMR has eight authorized resellers trained in the product in the U.S. and others in Canada and Europe.
Sonnet Technologies taps resellers as well.
Robert Farnsworth, chief executive officer of Sonnet Technologies, said his company sells exclusively through resellers, most of which specialize in the video editing space. Those resellers provide Sonnet's storage subsystem as part of a broader solution that includes computers, software, installation, and training.
Elsewhere, ATTO Technology Inc., a storage connectivity vendor, demonstrated its iSCSI Software Initiator for Mac OS X. The company recently updated its Xtend SAN product to improve security and automation for medium to large deployments, according to the Amherst, N.Y. company. ATTO Technology sells through OEMs, systems integrators, resellers and distributors.
Cloud computing also got a nod at Macworld. Apple unveiled a public beta that lets a user share iWork '09 documents online. Users can upload documents using the iWork.com service, which then lets other users view the documents, provide comments, and download copies in iWork, Microsoft Office or PDF formats, according to Apple.
Resellers have begun building business lines around cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, forging ties with such vendors as Google Inc., NetSuite Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc.
"Although Apple hasn't positioned itself as a SaaS or cloud computing company in the past, every major SaaS vendor has used Apple's iTunes success as a model for their business-oriented on-demand services," observed Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on SaaS.
"The new Web functionality of iWork '09 strengthens Apple's ability to appeal to business users which can increase the penetration of its iPhone, as well as its laptops and desktops, in the corporate market," Kaplan added.
Soonr, meanwhile, rolled out a cloud computing application for iPhones. The company said its service lets users house their computer files in a "personal cloud" that makes them accessible via iPhone. A free version of Soonr is available from the Apple App Store. Soonr said expanded versions will be offered through SaaS providers and mobile operators. The company said TeliaSonera Denmark launched a white-label service in November with additional partners in the U.S. and Europe expected to follow in early 2009.
"The more third-party SaaS/cloud computing applications built for the iPhone, the more attractive the iPhone becomes as a valuable tool for business users," Kaplan said.