Driving partner services and customer sales capabilities, particularly around virtualisation and the cloud, are key areas of focus for NetApp in 2010, according to its global partner executive.
During a press briefing in Sydney, NetApp vice-president of worldwide channel sales, Julie Parrish, launched the storage vendor’s Australian-specific training program aimed at helping partners improve customer-facing presentation and negotiation skills. The four-day Maximise course focuses on identifying business issues to align IT with and taking a more consultative approach, as well as value propositions around different areas like virtualisation.
The tools are part of ongoing efforts to deliver more services through the partner community, including pre- and post-sales professional services. About 60 per cent of NetApp’s total professional services business in Australia is done by partners today.
“We have scaled NetApp resources back in many countries around professional services to give more to the partners,” Parrish explained. “We are also no longer paying for rebates to professional services reps to remove any conflict.”
More broadly, Parrish highlighted two other areas of investment for NetApp over the past year: Offering more training and certification at a reduced cost to the channel; and simplifying its mid-size enterprise products portfolio. NetApp recently reduced the number of product SKUs available from 65 to seven, and cut list prices on entry-level models.
Looking forward, emphasis would now be placed on enabling partners to provide cloud services, Parrish said. She was quick to point out NetApp would not build its own cloud services, like its rival, EMC through Mozy and the Acadia alliance, but instead offer the underlying platform for others to develop cloud offerings.
One way NetApp hopes to get partners on-board the cloud is by proactively bringing together traditional VAR and integration partners with the telcos and service providers hosting cloud solutions. Parrish admitted many partners were still unsure of their role in a cloud-based world but claimed partnerships with hosting agents was a great way to source annuity revenue.
“I can see changing definitions of the channel, and I think we have to be careful about bundling partners and entities in certain ways,” Parrish said. “We may have customers that become resellers and partners through their own cloud services. For example, Telstra has been an end customer for us in the past, but in pulling through business through hosting, it will adopt a more channel model.”