Sun is putting the finishing touches to channel guidelines for its overhauled partner program, which comes into effect locally on July 1.
The Sun Partner Advantage (SPA) program will bring its channel under a single overarching structure worldwide. It replaces the vendor's longstanding iForce partner program.
Partners are divided into three tiers: associate, principal and executive. Under those, they can choose to specialise within Sun's four core practices: storage, servers, software and services.
"iForce existed for a number of years at a global level. The challenge was that the program was very hardware-centric," partner sales manager, Sam Srinivasan, said. "Sun's stack has widened to include software products and a broad range of solutions specific to certain industries. That has created a need for a program based on flexible, consistent architecture where we can include different partner types."
Srinivasan said SPA was based on three objectives: driving growth via the channel; moving partners towards directional capabilities such as vertical market focus, new accounts or a solutions sell; and deepening skill sets.
"One of the things we are doing with the introduction of this program is simplifying the way we reward partners. Instead of having 15 different rebates, rewards are aimed squarely at those investing in these three areas," he said.
"Another new element is that partners can participate and certify in delivering Sun services, such as installation services, or getting trained for helpdesk support. We will set up a scorecard mechanism to reward partners for their ability in those areas.
"In an environment where they are constantly competing with other vendors for services business, we're trying to turn it around and get partners participating in services."
Sun has sent out the first set of notices about SPA to Australian partners this month. Guidelines and a letter of authorisation will be mailed shortly. Partners will then be given 6-9 months to get accreditations in order. Most executive and principal partners have already been advised about which training they need to complete.
At a minimum, associate partners need entry-level accreditation in at least one platform area. At the top end, executive partners require specialisations in at least seven platforms, including high-level skills in one or more. Srinivasan said Sun would take into consideration what training partners had completed in the past two years.
"Once this is fully deployed, partners will have one agreement and can engage on any Sun aspects with that one deal. This is a huge simplification in the market," he said.
Sun has about 250 existing channel partners locally. Srinivasan said it would consider recruiting more to cover specific market needs.
"In all likelihood we'll take on more partners, but these will be mostly to fill the gaps in our market coverage or specialisation areas," he said. "We'll look at recruitment in software and things like data warehousing."
To help minimise disruptions to business while the transition takes place, Sun has appointed a dedicated program manager. While not disclosing names, Srinivasan said the new local recruit was an 11-year Sun veteran who had worked on the program rollout overseas.