Channel fears as Citrix ups training ante
- 09 March, 2005 08:15
Citrix has defended its decision to raise the required level of training for partners, despite having to extend the deadline for resellers to get their certifications in order.
The vendor, which had originally slated the changes to be effective from January 1, shifted the deadline to February 28 after partners expressed concerns they could not undertake all of the required exams in the set time.
Clariti managing director, Bruce McCurdy, said some partners had now lost their status as a result of the revamp. Others were suspended and could not sell product until they completed their certifications, he said.
Clariti is a platinum partner of Citrix.
In July last year, the vendor announced it would overhaul training grades for its three tiers of resellers. The changes coincided with the introduction of a new Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) qualification. It also followed the announcement that Citrix had trimmed its partner base to 220 and would focus its efforts on becoming a services-oriented organisation.
Citrix managing director for A/NZ, Gary O'Brien, said the CCIA program was introduced to give its channel more skills in solutions architecture.
"Our previous certifications were of a more technical nature," he said. "They focused on the back-end, build tests, rollout and support.
"We are finding now that we're moving into larger engagements with hundreds of seats. In order to ensure the quality of the installation process, we needed to focus partners on design upfront."
Top tier or platinum partners are now required to have at least two technical staff members qualified as CCIA engineers. Previously, these resellers needed two CCEA and two Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) engineers.
Gold partners are required to maintain one CCIA employee, along with several CCEA and CCA qualified technicians.
Silver partners have also had their certification level lifted. They now need at least one staff member with a CCEA qualification. All partners also need Citrix Certified Sales Professional (CCSP) staff.
O'Brien said the CCA competency had allowed for one server installation to be tested and rolled out.
"Single server is not an area we are playing in," he said. "CCEA offers a base level of two to four servers," he said.
While mostly supportive of the move to upskill its channel, partners said the changes were hindered by delays due to the added training required in order to complete a CCIA or CCEA qualification.
CCIA consists of a Certified Enterprise Administrator (CCEA) certification, together with seven exams and a lab test.
Candidates for the CCEA level have the option of sitting for several exams, or undertaking the five-day training course and final test.
AGM IT senior account manager, Peter Alford, said the delayed launch of CCIA lab testing was one of the major problems. The Sydney-based facility had not been available until October, he said.
"We are in NSW, but for those in other states it is quite prohibitive to get to the labs," he said. "Citrix had to take this into consideration. The difficulty is with timing and the engineer's availability - you have to work around customer rollouts."
NetOptions managing directory, Richard McAlary, said his company had been in danger of losing its gold partner status after its CCIA qualified technician left.
"This was despite meeting the volume requirements," he said. "Our engineer left after the lab exam had ended. So the one course we needed wasn't being offered and we couldn't get on it. What were we supposed to do?"
McAlary said Citrix had eventually allowed the company to retain their status because they were registered for the next available CCIA lab course.
O'Brien said a major reason for its extension on certification was the need for getting partners into the lab.
As a result, it offered extra time to several platinum and gold resellers, he said.
Another concern for resellers was the additional cost of getting staff qualified. Alford said committing to the training alone was a major cost for resellers.
He said it had cost $60,000 to train the appropriate amount of staff to become a platinum partner.
"They should consider some kind of rebate for those that meet the requirements for local markets," Alford said. "Clearly the US is a big market - the programs, training and so on are easier for channels over there."
The cost of CCEA training to retain its silver status was around $4000, Brennan IT general manager of products, Jason Withers, said. But this didn't take into account lost revenue, he said.
"We were lucky we got into an after-hours session with our distributor," he said. "Vendors don't understand training has an impact on resellers, not just from a financial perspective but also through the cost of having our guys out of the office for up to five days."
O'Brien said Citrix had put on accelerated training sessions for partners through its authorised learning centres to help reduce the costs. CCIA and CCEA candidates also had the option of studying the courses online.
The changes were not designed to decrease its channel ranks, he said.
"We are not looking to halve our partner numbers," he said. "They are our lifeblood. [But] with the channel our only avenue to customers, we want to provide the best guidance and skills we can."
While final partner numbers have not been counted, O'Brien said he expected Citrix to retain all of its platinum and most of its gold resellers, along with between 150 and 200 silver partners.
The vendor now has about 30 organisations across its top two tiers including Dimension Data, Volante and Kaz.
"We will see some transitioning take place," he said. "The majority of the gold partners are committed to us. The most fallout will be with silver partners."