Sun Makes Most of Hardware, Software Launches With New iForce Program

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In conjunction with new hardware and software storage products, Sun Microsystems on Wednesday officially unveiled a new partner program and certification designation designed to help nurture a superset of partners who can help the vendor make the most of its boldest foray into storage technology to date.

First outlined back in October at a gathering of Sun partners hosted by distributor MOCA, the iForce Storage Elite Program will qualify and certify certain iForce partners who have developed a core competency in storage hardware and software consulting integration using Sun technology.

Sun is launching the program to increase the less than stellar attach rates of storage products hardware partners achieve. Knowing many of its strongest allies often recommend EMC and other vendors' storage solutions when they sell Sun servers and software solutions, Sun is banking that a highly trained and well-compensated superset of partners, armed with the latest in technology, will help it increase the attach rates of Sun storage products to Sun server and software products by more than 30 percent.

To make it attractive for iForce partners to step up to the new program, Sun has decided to provide certain financial incentives for partners who make the commitment to set up labs, train their technicians and gear up their sales force to sell Sun's new portfolio of storage software suites, systems and services. iForce Storage Elite Program members who generate at least 25 percent of their revenue from storage can qualify for a monthly bonus check from Sun worth 3 percent of their entire Sun product sales. In addition, program members will receive a free license of Sun's StorEdge Surveyor software, which will enable them to go into customer settings and do a full-fledged analysis of their storage needs.

More than 10 companies have already begun technical training and certification testing to become full-fledged members of the iForce Storage Elite Program, which went live Feb. 1. Partners must complete class training and demonstrate comprehensive storage competencies in both Sun products. In addition, they must be enterprise-certified, which means they are qualified to sell the Sun Fire 15K Server and the Sun Fire 6800 Server products. Also, they must complete Hitachi certification, which mandates that two sales reps and two systems engineers complete training. Ultimately, Sun expects roughly 40 to 50 companies to become fully certified.

"At the beginning of this fiscal year, we have made it a primary focus of Sun to build a better model for our partners, which includes storage," says Bill Cate, director of U.S. channel architecture and sales initiatives for Sun. "Now, we have a good story around a high margin area for partners."

Also Wednesday, Sun disclosed it has significantly augmented its professional services, support services and education services focused on storage. For example, it has more than doubled the size and capability of its professional services practice around storage to help customers and partners with SAN and SAN management, among other things, says Mark Canepa, executive vice president, Network Storage Products group. Sun wants to make sure it can handle the needs of its most exacting customers while also providing a backfill to partners who may wish to express their breadth wider than it actually is. Armed with this new capability, Canepa is convinced Sun can handle virtually any need and any competitive situation.

"I believe we can look at a Fortune 500 customer and for the vast majority of their needs we can provide enterprise solutions better than anybody else," he says.

Sun Takes Another Dive into the Storage Space

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