EMC Expands On Plans To Replace Velocity With EMC Business Partner Program, But Details Still Lacking

Fred Kohout (left) and Gregg Ambulos discuss the new EMC Business Partner program.

EMC for now is quiet about the details of its planned restructuring of its channel program, but it is clear on one thing: It will be a comprehensive program that will bring partners together not only on its products but also on its core big data, cloud and trust.

Gregg Ambulos, EMC senior vice president of global channel sales, and Terry Breen, EMC's senior vice president of strategic sales, alliances and service providers, this week used the EMC World conference to introduce the EMC Business Partner initiative, which is scheduled to replace the decade-old EMC Velocity channel program starting Jan. 1.

Ambulos told CRN that the EMC Business Partner program is still in an exploratory phase, and so the company is hesitant to release details at this point, even if it had any.

[Related: EMC Q1: Channel Now Over 50 Percent Of Sales, But No Impact On Margins ]

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However, he said, the new program will encompass all the storage vendor's upcoming strategic initiatives better than was done in the past.

"EMC has a strategy around big data, cloud and mobility," he said. "Our program will be focused more on the platform."

One thing going away with the new program is the old "Velocity" name, Ambulos said. "'EMC Business Partner' leverages the EMC name," he said. "If there's a way to have one holistic program, we want it to be around the EMC name."

Milton Lin, a master cloud architect at Force 3, a Crofton, Md.-based solution provider and EMC partner, said EMC is a master of branding and developing programs and the packaging around them.

That is likely what will happen with the EMC Business Partner program as EMC moves its partners closer to the cloud, Lin said. "Most companies, when they want to tie you to the cloud, want you to get close to their entire family of products and services," he said. "Otherwise, the tendency is to tie you to point products."

NEXT: Trying To Leverage The 'EMC' Name For As Many Partners As Possible

With all the successful acquisitions EMC has done, it is important to consolidate the different parts into a coherent channel program, Force 3's Lin said. And that means solution providers can expect a new push on getting certifications and competencies.

"The requirements for competencies are constantly changing," he said. "When EMC does its channel programs, it typically asks more of you. For instance, when EMC first came out with its VNX storage line, we needed recertification. Our Clariion certifications didn't carry over."

Dan Weiss, CEO of Varrow, a Greensboro, N.C.-based solution provider and EMC partner, said that while EMC was light on details about the program, it had more than rebranding in mind.

Weiss said he would like to see EMC do a better job of showing off the different types of partners based on how much they have invested in EMC.

Over the last few years, EMC has worked to bring in a wider partner base, and in the process it provided many of the same benefits to partners that were either procurement-oriented or services-oriented, he said.

"Customers see that," he said. "We are a Signature partner. And a procurement-focused VAR might also have Signature partner status. But, they won't have the same level of investment in the EMC program. This can be confusing to customers who see us both as Signature partners."

EMC understands this issue, Weiss said. "I hope they bring back the ASN [Authorized Services Network] name," he said. "That's a very powerful message to customers when we can point to our authorization as a differentiator."

Fred Kohout, EMC vice president of worldwide channel marketing, said EMC will start making details of the new EMC Business Partner program available in late 2013 so that partners will be ready before the Velocity program is shut down.

For now, EMC's Ambulos said, the EMC Business Partner program will encompass members of the company's current technology outsourcer, systems integrator and service provider channel programs, as well as its ISV partners and its traditional resellers. The new program might also encompass partners of EMC's RSA, Information Intelligence Group (IIG), the new Pivotal big data company, and VMware.

While Pivotal and VMware are not likely to be a part of a single EMC channel program, they will be a factor in the EMC Business Partner program, Ambulos said.

"We will look at how to link to them for the maximum amount of coverage," he said.

For example, Kohout said, EMC is already taking steps to include its VSPEX reference architecture partners and its EMC Cloud Builder partners in the upcoming program. "Partners want a simple engagement model," he said.

EMC also used EMC World to talk about a number of other planned channel initiatives.

As part of its channel program refurbishment, EMC's Breen said the company plans to replace its Powerlink system over the next 12 months. Powerlink is a part of EMC's partner portal for accessing all manner of EMC partner information and has been criticized for being too complex.

Howard Elias, president and COO for EMC's global enterprise services, said EMC's channel programs and relationships will also transform over time as services becomes an increasingly important part of partners' business.

EMC will be looking to help partners transform to cloud builders, providers or brokers to meet new customer demands for services around cloud, big data and trust, Elias said.

However, it will not be an easy transformation, and definitely will not be for the faint of heart, he said. "But we're committed to help you on every stage of the journey," he said.

NEXT: Details On The Pivotal Channel Plans Still To Come

One part of EMC where the channel side is still very much a work in progress is Pivotal, the new EMC and VMware joint-funded big data company.

EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci said that Pivotal was still focused on point products for now, and partners of those products like the Greenplum big data analytics application will continue to do business as they have always done so. However, Tucci said, Pivotal expects to start offering product suites in the fourth quarter of this year that will result in new opportunities for channel partners.

Paul Maritz, president and CEO of Pivotal, said that his company has yet to fully articulate a channel strategy.

However, Maritz said, the company initially will focus on building an enterprise channel program, and that SMB channel partners will likely eventually partner with other larger services integrators that adopt Pivotal for cloud-based services.