"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