Red Hat Searching For New North America Channel Chief

Enterprise software maker Red Hat is actively conducting a search for a new U.S. channel chief after Vice President Of North America Channel Sales Roger Egan accepted a job with high-flying open-source startup Docker Inc.

Egan, a seven-year Red Hat veteran who grew the company's North America channel sales tenfold, officially stepped down on Friday, just 10 days before the Red Hat partner conference Jan. 13-15 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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"We have an active search on [for a replacement]," said Mark Enzweiler, vice president of global channels and alliances for Red Hat, in an interview with CRN. "There is lots of interest [in the position]. There are people whose names you often find in your publication on the list. You probably know some of the people I have reached out to, but because they are working for other companies, I can't say their names."

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Until a replacement is named, Egan's duties will be taken on by Bob Wilson, Red Hat senior director of North America channel sales, and Jerry Lumpkin, also Red Hat senior director of North America channel sales.

Both Wilson and Lumpkin will report to Rick Akie, vice president of North America sales for Red Hat.

Akie, for his part, said he will work closely with Wilson and Lumpkin to assure Red Hat maintains its channel sales momentum. "Nothing is going to change," he promised. "We will continue the momentum that we have built upon all year."

Red Hat's channel sales have been steadily trending up over the last several years and are now approaching 70 percent of total sales, said Akie.

"We have an exciting product portfolio that we have built over the past few years beyond our Linux base with huge interest in the market," said Akie. "It's a huge opportunity for our partners. We see absolute continued growth with the partners benefiting."

Enzweiler, who hired Egan and described the two as close friends, said he was saddened by Egan's departure but heartened by the great opportunity ahead for Egan.

"It was really mixed emotions when he told me he was leaving," said Enzweiler. "It's a great opportunity for him to get into a small company. It's a great technology company. It is not hard to figure out when you look at all the hype going on around Docker. We are certainly saddened by him leaving. But I am happy for him because it is a great, great opportunity."

Egan was brought into Docker by Docker CEO Ben Golub, a serial entrepreneur of sorts who was the former CEO of Gluster, an open-source storage company acquired by Red Hat in 2011. Docker, in fact, is partnering with Red Hat.

The addition of Egan, who could not be reached for comment, comes with Docker building out a network of certified support, training and services providers for its open source engine that automates application deployment.

NEXT: Red Hat VP: Channel Chief Departure Will Not Impact Red Hat Strategy

Red Hat's Enzweiler stressed that Egan's departure does not change the company's channel strategy.

"The strategy is not changing," said Enzweiler. "While [Egan's departure] is inconvenient with the partner conference, I actually view it as if there is a time for this to happen, it's a good time because now we can go have those conversations with all those partners within a week of when Roger left the company. I think that will minimize some of the disruption."

One sign of Red Hat's continued channel commitment, Enzweiler said, is changes that will be announced at next week's partner conference focused on additional margin and sales opportunity around Red Hat renewals. "We are going to do some things around renewals that will give partners additional margin opportunity and protection," he said. "We are obviously going to want them to be responsible for making sure they optimize around the annuity model."

What's more, Enzweiler assured, partners will see strong commitment from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst.

Another sign of Red Hat's channel momentum: a steady uptick in net new customer business being brought to Red Hat by solution providers, said Enzweiler. "That is an indicator of future performance and margins for the partners," he said. "Obviously getting the renewal costs less than it does to get the first transaction."

Enzweiler acknowledged that some partners will likely be concerned about Egan's departure. He said he is focused on reassuring them that the company's channel commitment remains strong. His message to partners: "Don't be concerned. There is a lot of good news. There is a lot of momentum. The commitment they are going to get from Red Hat is pretty clear. We are going to continue what got us here. We were, way back, a direct-centric company. We have steadily made improvements in terms of percentage of sales going indirect. We want to drive this business to 70 percent channel."

James Chinn, CEO of Shadow-Soft, an Atlanta-based open-source software developer and channel partner of Red Hat, said he was a little shocked and worried about the departure of Egan. "Egan is leaving quite a legacy," Chinn said. "I'm worried about who will step into his shoes."

Red Hat product sales account for nearly half of Shadow-Soft's revenue, or well over half if services are included, Chinn said. In the five years that Shadow-Soft worked with Red Hat, the company's business with the vendor doubled every year except the last, when business still grew 50 percent.

"How Red Hat reacts is important to us," he said. "Do they go back in time to a more direct focus or carry on with Egan's vision?"

Egan will be missed in a big way, Chinn said. "He definitely has some big shoes to fill," he said. "We hope that whoever steps into that role continues his legacy. Red Hat now has the best channel program we deal with."