IN THE HOT SEAT: Red Hat gets channel ready

IN THE HOT SEAT: Red Hat gets channel ready

Red Hat's Sandeep Chandiramani is a man on a mission: to build up the skills of the vendor's channel. After spending three years as a financial systems analyst in the Linux software vendor's US offices, Chandiramani was sent to its European offices to oversee growth in that market. The position saw him work closely with both the financial and IT operations side of the business, and resulted in his latest role as director of partner and alliances for Australia and New Zealand.

Tell us about your position with Red Hat.

Sandeep Chandiramani (SC): My goal is to build the infrastructure for partner growth in A/NZ and across the south Asia-Pacific region. I've been in this job for about nine months, but I've been with Red Hat more than six years. My background is very much finance. The reason I have had a lot of experience with partners and alliances is because I used to support the channel sales team in the US and Europe.

Talk us through Red Hat's channel set up.

SC: We have customers that we maintain direct relationships with. Below that we have large enterprises that have relationships with our channel - vendors such as Intel, Dell and IBM. Going into medium enterprises, we have local business partners who work as an extension of Red Hat's sales team. The bottom of the triangle, which is our largest base of customers, is where we have resellers, such as Harris Technology and EveryLinux, who service the retail market. The way we try and simplify that whole channel model is to have a single source for the product, which is Ingram Micro.

What are some of the partner initiatives you have in the works?

SC: In the last three months, we've signed up three partners: Volante as a national partner, SI2, a desktop specialist, and Red Rock Consulting, an Oracle specialist (the company now has 10 partners). This gives customers a one-stop shop for their Oracle solutions - or in the case of SI2, the expertise and knowledge to migrate from their current desktop to Linux.

We have also recently undertaken our first local reseller training in Australia. This was followed by the launch of our online partner training tool earlier this month. The tool is a way for our partners to gain more knowledge about Red Hat Enterprise Linux, network and related components of the open source architecture.

There seems to be a strong alliance between Red Hat and Oracle, as well as push from both to promote ISV activities internationally. How does this affect the local market?

SC: Oracle has actually dedicated itself to the growth of Linux and open source as a platform. What we have done is launched a Linux Enterprise Application Porting centre in Singapore with them, to give local ISVs the opportunity to have applications ported.

Is there much interest from Australian ISVs to get applications ported across to Linux?

SC: Not as of yet. But there are some initiatives in the pipe. With the channel model, we're focusing first on getting the infrastructure built to deliver the products to the customers. Step two would be enabling ISVs that we recruit to have joint solutions with us, which will then be sold through our channel network.

We have more than 1000 commercial applications ported to Red Hat Enterprise Linux globally. On a local basis, there are probably ISVs who have already gone through this program, but it's just a matter of extending the program here.

What feedback did you receive from resellers at the training sessions? Are they still concerned about how to make money on Linux?

SC: We had two key focuses with the reseller training. One was to grow awareness that Red Hat is in Australia and available through a distributor.

Secondly, we wanted to show resellers ways in which they could make money with Linux. So we talked about the product itself and open source architecture. We have management and provisioning tools for example, and other applications that we build to sit on top of the operating system. We also demonstrated ways we were successful in selling Linux.

Before the training session, this was a common question because of the fact that it is open source and anyone can tweak the code. But really that is where Red Hat comes in. We make it a solution backed by a reputable vendor. What we highlighted during the training sessions were add-on services.

What are some of these add-on services?

SC: Two-thirds of our business is subscription to Red Hat products and support services. A third is training and consulting. That's a component partners can build on. For example, they could perform the deployment, assessment or migration services for a client.

What's the next step for Red Hat's partner program?

SC: The next step is really just building on the momentum we created through our reseller training. We are holding an APAC world tour to expand the open source initiative. We have invited IT decision makers to learn more about open source architecture - both current and prospective customers. We also plan to have partners holding demonstrations. This will allow them to meet customers who have already gone from evaluation stage and are serious about deploying these solutions.

What would you do if you weren't at Red Hat?

SC: I'd be teaching - probably international business, because I have worked in Asia, Australia, Europe and the US. It has given me a lot of experience that I can share with people in whatever country.

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