Servicing the channel pack

Servicing the channel pack

Since joining Network Appliance seven years ago, vice-president of global channels, Leonard Iventosch, has helped the vendor slowly expand its indirect footprint. He spoke to ARN about his frustrations and plans for a partner program specifically aimed at professional services.

What does your role entail?

I have responsibility for all of NetApp's indirect pathways including our channel marketing team. I will be looking to build a global channel program that is as consistent as possible across the globe but still allows for local variations based on economic conditions and industries. We'll be creating business propositions for our partners to make it attractive for them to partner with us - not only to help us meet revenue objectives, but with the goal of building their success and profitability as well.

What is NetApp's market strategy?

One of the areas we are pretty excited about right now is our ability to help customers reduce their power and cooling costs. There is a lot of momentum around going green. We are focused around virtualisation and consolidation, and software products like FlexClone, which basically allows users to get significantly higher utilisation for storage and a greater density of the disk that we employ. Users end up with significant power savings and cooling. I think companies are going to start looking at IT not just from a cost standpoint, but how they are reducing carbon footprint. We are going to see more green initiatives from NetApp and we will start delivering that value proposition through our partners.

Over recent years, the company has made several acquisitions. Are there more on the cards?

We have a group in NetApp constantly analyzing small companies that are not yet driving significant revenue but have interesting technology. The acquisitions we have made in the past couple of years, like Decru in the security space and Alacritus Software, which allowed us to build our virtual tape library product, were very strategic. In most cases the revenue is not material but the technologies we buy all fold into that single operating system around unified storage. It would be easier to say 'there is a competitor, let's go buy them', but that's not our model. Our goal is to beat our competition and in most cases our number one competitor is EMC.

What sets you apart from competitors such as EMC?

Depending on how you view that, it could be technology, culture and how we work with partners. The concept of unified storage is probably near the top in terms of the value we bring to our customers. We use one operating system from the bottom of our product line all the way to the top, as opposed to EMC for example, which I think has about five different operating systems depending on whether you are trying to solve a problem or archive.

We also need to develop an attractive business proposition around margin opportunity, lead generation programs and professional services opportunities available to a partner. We are developing a program called the Authorised Professional Services Program (APSP), which is where we will transfer our intellectual property and methodologies around our solutions to partners so they will be able to sell their professional services around NetApp solutions. Professional services are some of the highest offerings our channel has. My frustration is that NetApp doesn't move as fast as I would like it to in providing greater opportunities for partners and enhancing the business proposition.

What benefits are involved for partners in the APSP program?

It is all about professional services. We see tremendous value in working with complementary partners that not only sell NetApp storage but maybe Sun or HP servers, Cisco networking or undertake integration work around SAP or Oracle. They are partners that could be closer to the application than what we are and by virtue of that, they have access to storage deals before we or our competitors know about them. By providing the practices and methodologies to optimize their professional services around NetApp solutions, I think a partner can offer a much broader and compelling value proposition to their customer.

On a global basis we have 800 partners. Right now, we are under-distributed and we are recruiting partners to help fill out our portfolio - whether it is based on their geographic location, the vertical markets they serve or their complementary technologies. Our partners have to commit to growing as fast as we are and in Australia that is about 50 per cent.

What does NetApp's product roadmap look like for next 12 months?

We will continue to deliver unified storage and drive value through our software. VMware is a great new partner for us around virtualisation. We will also continue to drive value through partners and take some of our direct accounts and give them to the channel. Indirect is growing dramatically in every one of one of our geographic locations. In Australia somewhere around 40 per cent of sales went through channel last year.

Where do you think NetApp sits in the market at the moment?

From a technology standpoint we are very strong in NAS, iSCSI and we're growing our fibre channel SAN business. There is the greatest opportunity for more there. When I joined the company, 75 per cent of our business came from Internet-based, dotcom type companies and now that's coming from enterprise accounts. For us, a customer with more than 1000 employees is the sweet spot. The commercial space is growing very rapidly and eventually I think we will grow that business faster than enterprise.

What are NetApp's plans for 2008?

There are a couple of things we want to accomplish. One is to internally educate our product management and marketing teams on how to build products and solutions with partners in mind. NetApp used to build great products and then throw them over the wall to a sales rep to figure out how to sell it, but it is much more complex now and there's more competition in market. We want our partners to be able to work independently of us when they want to and collaborate with us when they need to. We have a pretty strong focus on a program called the Technical Partner Advisor program, which is all about enabling partners technically to be able to position NetApp's technology.

What market trends are you seeing in the storage space?

Consolidation and virtualisation is a strong trend and I think what is driving that is going green. I think we will see companies move away from direct attached storage to the network sort. We are also going to see convergence of technologies and, as that happens, the religious wars over SAN versus NAS versus iSCSI are going to diminish.

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