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We've talked a little about Brocade's image in the channel, and I'm curious as to how you feel Brocade is perceived. What does it need to do to burnish that image? Is there a perception that needs to be changed?
Let me say right off that there is no ambiguity in this company about where we're headed and how critical the channel is to that success. The one thing that has absolutely impressed me is the unilateral agreement around a critical set of objectives. I think the challenge that we've faced is to more clearly message that, if you will, and as you said, burnish the image. The fact is we've got to be more aggressive about developing the expertise base that understands what steps to take and in what order.
I think the fact that I'm sitting here and we're doing a lot of hiring throughout our channel organization right now means we're acquiring people who don't have to guess or argue about what are the right steps to build it, but people who have been through it and its part of their basic genetics. Literally on a monthly basis, we're bringing on people that are long-term, who have had decades of experience at working at channel-driven sales motions. The critical mass we have in place now is very impressive. I don't feel like I'm pushing a rope, I feel like a whole bunch of people have welcomed me with open arms. I think you'll see the vector moving in the right direction based on the investments we've made.
Can you expound a bit on those internal changes? Are you hiring new channel sales managers? Re-allocating resources?
There are some things on my 90-day agenda around that: executing some good organizational design practices. To this point, there is a little bit of looking at the house and putting some additions on it, but we want to get the architecture cleaned up from the ground up. Mainly, it's about efficiency and making sure we're not spending more time on internal processes than we are external delivery. We're also building talent: the company has added strategic leadership in the channel program, we're bringing in leadership in all regions, and we've been investing very heavily in the channel ecosystem, designing our whole online presence from traditional web tools to social media.
What specific channel program changes are we seeing?
There are a couple of things I would highlight, but right now, we've had a lead generation program that's been in prototype phase and we've been getting the kinks out of the process for the last couple of months. We're right now kicking off several activities to act as feeders, and we'll now have a full life cycle to lead qualification process. We are turning on inside sales and inside marketing activities, too. We're at the point where the capabilities and the nascent partnering processes are very visible.
In recent conversations with Barbara [Spicek, vice president of worldwide channels], we've talked a lot about this idea of the true convergence solution provider, whose practice encompasses data center, storage, networking and the services involved in each. What percentage of Brocade's existing channel might be described as that, you think?
I would suspect, although I don't know, to be honest, that the Brocade family of partners is ahead of the curve in terms of having a realistic view of what the implications of these various trends are for customers, and on their own business models. As experts in data center architecture and data center migration, Brocade uniquely sees a lot of this opportunity, and we're trying to be much better at communicating the expectations we have around where the market's going. Most of the vision out there is incredibly vendor-driven and incredibly transparent in the obvious intent by those vendors. You've got vendors doing land grabs, and to some extent their push for cloud is a reason for turning the clocks back: they want this whole idea of monolithic, proprietary data centers to return. I'm pretty sure that idea started to disappear sometime back in the late 80s.
There are the big three, two of whom have not really participated in network architecture in any meaningful way in the last decade, and one of whom is crafty about creating trends and architectures that are in its best interest. As a person who's been very deep and entrenched in network architecture, the concept of virtualizing all the hardware isn't new, but back then it was customer-driven, not vendor-driven. What's happening now is an exploding of the conceptual model for data center to where it's moving [parts] around a unified fabric and moving control of it up to a complete software level.
This is a model that clearly should evolve, and shouldn't involve forklifts. Customers have storage architecture that does everything, and more than anything, it's a key part of their ecosystem for information integrity. One of the things I'm really pushing partners on is around reducing complexity and protecting existing access. Yes, enabling new applications, enabling cloud, enabling virtual mobility -- which customers can absolutely need and benefit from -- but not with a forklift.
This has to be something that migrates these environments and does so with cost effectiveness and respect for existing infrastructure. We want partners to look at it is, my competitor says everything's gotta go, but I say to customers, don't panic, let's talk about what makes sense from incremental steps.
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