Hortonworks Touts Partnerworks Channel Program Success, Looks To International Expansion

One year after launching its Partnerworks channel program, big data software developer Hortonworks has grown its partner ranks by 400, introduced a certification track for managed service providers, expanded partner sales and engineering certification offerings, and improved communications with its 2,100 solution provider partners.

"It was a pragmatic year" for Partnerworks, said Chris Sullivan, Hortonworks' senior vice president of channels and alliances, in an interview with CRN. "Our channel community, the partner community, is strategic and critical to our business. We're pleased with the results."

Hortonworks, founded in 2011, is a major player in the big data arena, marketing its Hadoop-based Hortonworks Data Platform and DataFlow products for managing huge volumes of data.

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While the company had long worked with partners, the vendor lacked a formal channel program until early 2016 when it launched Partnerworks. Sullivan, previously channel chief at VCE, was hired in late 2015 to oversee Hortonworks' channel efforts.

Today the company's partners include resellers, ISVs, independent hardware vendors (IHVs), systems integrators and MSPs. That's up by 400 from one year ago, even though Hortonworks has not been actively recruiting additional partners. Sullivan said most of the new partners reached out to the vendor.

Hortonworks doesn't disclose its volume of partner sales. But at the time Partnerworks was launched, Sullivan said the goal was to double channel participation in the vendor's sales in 2016. In the more recent interview, the channel chief said the company "far exceeded that objective."

Accenture, one of Hortonworks' platinum partners and recent winner of its "Global Systems Integrator Partner of the Year" award, had worked with the vendor's products long before the Partnerworks launch. Accenture provides a range of technical and consulting services around Hortonworks' software, including development of data management and analysis use-cases for the software in specific industries, said Atish Ray, data engineering lead at Accenture Analytics, part of the Accenture Digital business.

Accenture's focus is on using Hortonworks software to collect, manage and enrich huge volumes of data and analyze it to gain insights, Ray said in an interview.

"They're great to work with," Ray said of Hortonworks, noting the vendor's extensive technical support for partners and opportunities to provide feedback to the vendor for the ongoing development of its software.

Since the Partnerworks launch, Hortonworks has expanded the range of certifications it offers partners in pre-sales and sales engineering, Sullivan said, in addition to the post-sales and implementation engineering certifications it offered before the launch.

In June, the company added a program within Partnerworks to support MSPs whose services incorporate Hortonworks products. It also added to the joint go-to-market assistance it provides to ISVs and IHVs that sell Hortenworks-certified applications. And Hortonworks stepped up its efforts to communicate with partners both directly and through social media, according to Sullivan.

This year, the focus is on better integrating Hortonworks' own go-to-market strategy with those of its partners, deepening relationships with global strategic integrators and continuing to expand internationally, Sullivan said.

The company will also accelerate its cloud initiatives, such as the vendor did in November with the announced availability of the Hortonworks Data Cloud on Amazon Web Services.

While the channel chief said the company's current stable of 2,100 partners "represents a tremendous amount of opportunity and potential," he expects that number to grow this year, especially internationally. But he said there are no specific targets.

"It's always great to see more partners coming into our ecosystem," he said.