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[Interview] Western Digital’s Ghassan Azzi on the firm’s hardware storage products and plans for the Kenyan market


Western Digital is one of the biggest players in the computer drive manufacturing and data storage industry. With its headquarters in California in the United States. The company has footprints all over the world, including Asia and the Pacific as well as Africa with Kenya being one of its key markets.

Recently, the company showcased some of its products including the new WD Purple Pro 22TB CMR hard drives at SECUREXPO 2023 in Nairobi.

We had a chat with Ghassan Azzi, Sales Director, Africa at Western Digital to discuss these products and the company’s plan for the local market. 

Kindly introduce yourself and your roles at Western Digital.

My name is Ghassan Azzi, Sales Director, Africa at Western Digital. I am responsible for leading a top performing team to set up an in-country distribution and retail network across the key markets in the continent. With over 25 years of experience successfully dealing in consumer electronics and durable products across the Middle East and African marketplace, I bring a wealth of experience, having worked on extensive projects which include multiple distributions, channel marketing programs, setting up rep-office, and developing partners in Africa.

You are a computer drive manufacturer and data storage company. Tell us about your global presence.

We are a global company, headquartered in California in the United States. We have a footprint all over the world, including Asia and the Pacific.

We are also present across most of Africa, with a key presence in Kenya, Nigeria, RSA, Ghana, and North Africa – in addition to many others, while also expanding into new markets in Africa.

Why is a market like Kenya very important to you?

Kenya is widely considered to be the economic, commercial, financial and logistics hub of East Africa with many global companies establishing local and regional operations there.

With 79% of its population under the age of 35 according to UN data, we believe we have a diversified portfolio of products and solutions that cater to this audience, in addition to other solutions that cater to older audiences and businesses. 

Speaking of Kenya, you recently showcased some of your products including the new WD Purple Pro 22TB CMR hard drives at SECUREXPO 2023. Tell us about these products. 

SecurExpo Kenya was the perfect place to showcase our smart video surveillance storage range and innovative 22TB drives to the security industry in Kenya. Our WD Purple product line is engineered specifically for smart video and surveillance and includes a range of product solutions that offer improved efficiency for overall video playback and bring reliable, surveillance-class storage that has been tested for compatibility with a wide range of smart video solutions. 

At the event, we showcased our WD Purple and WD Purple Pro ranges, which are purpose-built for smart video surveillance storage and stand up to harsh environments and 24/7 operations while minimizing frame loss to reliability capture the footage you need. The solutions available in Kenya include HDDs ranging in capacity from 1TB to 22TB1, and microSD™ cards, which offer an effective combination of endurance, high performance, and capacity options from 128GB up to 1TB1 for on-camera storage.

Who is your target market with these new products launched in Kenya

Smart video surveillance is on the rise, bringing increased storage requirements along with it. Our smart video surveillance storage range and innovative 22TB drives are specifically designed for the security industry in Kenya. 

Our WD Purple product line is engineered specifically for smart video and surveillance and includes a range of product solutions that offer improved efficiency for overall video playback and bring reliable, surveillance-class storage that has been tested for compatibility with a wide range of smart video solutions.

What is the key unique selling point for these products? 

In today’s world, high-resolution cameras are capturing multiple video, picture, and metadata streams per camera; AI and video analytics are placing new demands on quantity, quality, and retention of video data; and deep-learning solutions are needing more video to train AI algorithms, all while video-surveillance-as-a-service (VSaaS) customers are needing purpose-built storage to efficiently manage this data at scale

The 22TB WD Purple Pro CMR HDD with OptiNAND technology delivers big capacity to address these trends, in a purpose-built enterprise-class drive supporting video analytics servers, and AI and deep-learning systems. The drive features Western Digital’s exclusive AllFrame™ AI technology that supports 32 AI streams for deep-learning analytics within the system while helping to reduce dropped frames. WD Purple Pro drives are optimized to handle up to 64 single-stream HD cameras3 as well as many of the latest smart cameras that transmit multiple streams. It offers high reliability with a MTBF of up to 2.5 million hours 2 for advanced smart video solutions that operate in 24/7 environments. The WD Purple Pro HDD family now comes in 8TB-22TB capacities¹. 

Other than the products showcased at the EXPO what other products are you looking to bring to the Kenyan market in the near future?

Western Digital’s products include a wide range of internal drives, external hard drives, solid-state drives (SSDs), Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, and memory cards, among others.  

Our latest in consumer storage solutions which are also available in Kenya include Portable SSD solutions (SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD & WD My Passport SSD) and mobile storage solutions (SanDisk iXpand & SanDisk Dual Drive ranges); in addition to our range of internal SSDs – WD Blue & WD Green; and also WD_BLACK which is specifically for gaming. 

Global Hardware Storage Market was valued at USD 76.32 billion in 2021, and it is expected to reach a value of USD 170.83 billion by 2028. How is Western Digital positioning itself to grab a huge share of this market. 

Western Digital will continue investing in R&D to come up with tailor-made products for every sector. We will ramp up innovation, build and solidify customer loyalty, continue investing in a talented, dedicated workforce, strengthen partnerships, deploy effective advertising, and price products and services efficiently. And finally, we will continue expanding into new markets in Africa and the rest of the region.

Based on these figures, what do you think is driving the huge demand for hardware storage? 

Storage hardware is still the lifeline of the business world. Crucial data needs to be stored permanently. That is why billions are spent annually on storage media by companies of all scales and sizes. 

Looking at data from a historical perspective, please help us understand how storage demand has evolved over time. 

The storage technology and the architecture has evolved over the years in response to the challenges arising from increasing demands to store more and ever-increasing data and information. Both the average customer’s and businesses’ needs have changed over time, in turn leading to growth in storage demand, thanks to the evolution of the internet, e-commerce, and data warehousing. The need to store this vast amount of data and then access it from across the world has caused a tremendous shift in storage technologies.

Western Digital has been ranked among the top five players in the hardware storage market. What does this ranking mean to you as a company?

The ranking attests to our commitment to give the best storage solutions to our customers. We cannot, however, afford to sit on our laurels. We will continue with our product innovation and improve our customer experience to ensure we maintain our market leadership.

Are there any new products in the pipeline?

Please refer to No. 7 above. Our R&D processes are ongoing and we will let you know once new products are rolled out.

Any closing remarks. 

When it comes to data, everything is growing – quantity, size, format, resolution, use cases, applications, value, and more. As people and businesses look for solutions to effectively and efficiently store their data in the zettabyte era, Western Digital® HDDs continue to play a critical role in delivering massive capacity, performance, and reliability.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to nkanali@techtrendske.co.ke.

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