A simplification to EMC's Velocity channel program that makes it easier for new solution providers to attain higher status could cause dissension among EMC's existing solution providers who have made the investments to get there.
However, the integration of EMC's Isilon storage systems for unstructured data into the Velocity program is welcome news to solution providers who have found the EMC Isilon line a good fit for customers.
The changes are aimed at making it easier for solution providers to work with EMC, said Leonard Iventosch, vice president of Americas channels for the Hopkinton, Mass., storage giant.
"The overarching theme here is to build a Velocity program that is simple and profitable for our partners," Iventosch said.
The first major change is the decision to drop the services requirement needed for partners to get the EMC Velocity Premier Signature status.
Iventosch said that EMC Velocity Premier Signature partners had to prove their competency in sales, presales and services in the consolidation, advanced consolidation, and backup and recovery specialties in order to qualify for that status, while partners at the Premier level needed to prove those competencies in one specialty.
Going forward, solution providers will no longer have to meet the services requirements for either level, Iventosch said.
Jeff Schmitt, EMC's senior director of global services partners for the Americas, said the change came about because there are many partners qualified to engage EMC with their customers but have not yet had the time to build their EMC services capabilities.
"In the past, we expected partners to have the appropriate services capabilities," Schmitt said. "But their status could get stale as they built those services capabilities."
Iventosch said that Velocity Premier Signature partners have voiced concerns over lowering the requirement to attain that partnership level.
"However, services capabilities are still the main differentiator for partners," he said. "Also, as we change the Velocity program in the future, we will be working on additional benefits for partners with services capabilities."
The potential cheapening of the EMC Velocity Premier Signature program is a concern to Keith Norbie, vice president of Nexus, the Minnetonka, Minn. office of Stratos Management Systems, an Atlanta-based solution provider and EMC partner.
NEXT: Dropping The Service Plank Could Dilute The Program Value
"Getting the Premier designation is a good level in itself and sets the value bar of partners for customers, while the Signature level is even harder to get," Norbie said. "Signature sets a whole new bar. If EMC eliminates the services requirement, it could dilute the value of the partner designation."
Norbie said he hopes EMC will not drop the services requirement partners need to qualify for the EMC Cloud Builder Practice. "That's a great way of differentiation between partners," he said. "It's important to keep the services component there."
The services component to the EMC Cloud Builder Practice is not only being kept, it is being enhanced, Schmitt said.
EMC recently has invested in hiring new global services lead personnel tasked with helping solution providers get closer to EMC and its cloud offerings, he said. EMC has also moved training materials and videos online to provide around-the-clock access.
The company also last summer introduced cooperative services to the Cloud Builder Practice program that give partners the option of bringing in EMC personnel to handle the "heavy lifting" related to implementation of services, including assessments and health checks, Schmitt said.
"We enable partners to leverage the skills of EMC GSL [Global Services Lead]," he said. "EMC's services do not compete with our partners' services. As partner services evolve, we make sure we keep our partners enabled."
The other major change in EMC's Velocity channel program is the integration of EMC's Isilon product line into Velocity.
EMC in late 2010 acquired Isilon, a provider of scalable storage particularly suited for managing large stores of unstructured data, but until this week had not merged that product line into the Velocity program.
Iventosch said Isilon is now a part of the consolidation specialty within the Velocity program, meaning that Velocity solution providers who have not yet trained on Isilon will need to do so in order to maintain their status. They have until November 30, 2013, to do so, he said.
When asked it this means EMC is forcing partners to get trained on Isilon, Iventosch said he thinks of it more as encouraging partners. "Yeah, you could say forcing," he said. "It's not a huge training requirement. But it benefits partners to get into the Isilon business."
Isilon is definitely a good business for partners, said Stratos' Norbie.
NEXT: Isilon Additions To Velocity Program Good Move For Partners
"If you look at customers' infrastructures today, the ratio of unstructured data growth is exponentially higher than block data," he said. "EMC's biggest potential growth is in Isilon. In the future, you will see lots of file-only architectures to handle files in an unstructured fashion."
EMC's Velocity program also now offers increased monetary benefits to customers, Iventosch said. The company is adding additional rebates of 1.5 points for Velocity Signature Premier partners and 1.0 points for Velocity Signature partners for every deal, with no minimum, he said.
For Isilon sales, EMC's Velocity partners also can qualify for an additional 2.0 points of rebates for bringing in new customers. Those customers also could include existing EMC customers who have never purchased Isilon before, he said.
The company, which in the past offered co-op funds to partners, is now offering up to half those funds as market development funds while cutting in half the paperwork needed to qualify for those funds, Iventosch said.
Norbie warned EMC it had better have its wallet stuffed with cash for partners.
"EMC had better have a lot of cash on hand for the partners to handle their new Isilon rebates," he said.
PUBLISHED FEB. 6, 2013