EMC Debuts Business Partner Program, Offers Unified Tiers And Benefits

EMC Tuesday took the wraps off its renovated channel program, one that rewards partners selling solutions across the wide range of EMC technologies.

The new EMC Business Partner Program is scheduled to go live in January, at which time it will replace the current Velocity program and several other programs based on individual product lines with a single program that provides partner benefits across the full EMC solution spectrum, said Fred Kohout, vice president of partner marketing.

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The key change is unifying a variety of EMC partner programs that currently either have a product line focus, such as programs for EMC infrastructure, VMware or RSA, or are differentiated by partner type including solution providers or cloud providers, Kohout said.

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"Partner models and business models are evaporating and changing," Kohout said. "If you are a partner with a different focus, we want to make it easy for you to work with EMC, and profitable to work with EMC. We want to provide rich rewards if you go broad with EMC or focus on particular solutions."

The EMC Business Partner Program does away with tying benefits to partner competencies, and instead provides benefits on a Silver-, Gold-, and Platinum-tiered basis depending on revenue, said David Abelow, senior director of the EMC Business Partner Program.

"The focus is on a richer, more predictable rebate structure," Abelow told CRN. "Our partners now have one goal: total top-line revenue with EMC's products and services. It's a single number."

EMC also is paying rebates to partners from day one and offering increased rebates as they reach new tiers, Kohout said. "Before, partners would earn rebates when they hit an overall performance goal," he said. "Now they earn from the day they sell."

The base level, Silver, is focused mainly on technology, Abelow said. The Gold level moves the focus to selling solutions, while the Platinum level is for expert partners who can implement solutions across the EMC Federation, which includes EMC Information Infrastructure, VMware, Pivotal and RSA, he said.

VCE, however, is not a part of the EMC Federation but it is linked to the EMC Business Partner Program, Abelow said. "So EMC partners also benefit from working with VCE," he said.

NEXT: Exploring Partner Opportunities

The EMC Business Partner Program gives solution providers the opportunity to work in one or more tracks, said Gregg Ambulos, EMC's senior vice president of worldwide channel sales.

Ambulos told an audience of EMC solution providers who attended EMC World that partners can operate in one or several tracks based on their skills, including solution provider, cloud service provider, global alliance, OEM, Information Intelligence Group and RSA SecurWorld.

"We are seeing a true convergence among our partner community. ... You are starting to play across all tracks," Ambulos said.

EMC also is helping partners combine multiple EMC technologies into solutions via a series of what Ambulos called "solution handbooks." The first solution handbook, which shows partners how to build hybrid clouds, is already available for download, he said.

Solution providers said they would like to see more details on the EMC Business Partner Program.

Steve Munn, president of 303 Technology, a Ridgeland, Miss.-based solution provider and EMC channel partner, said he is looking forward to getting more information about the program. However, for now, Munn said he likes how EMC has set up the different partner tracks.

"It helps us get focused," he said. "It will drive us to be true partners who can deliver the kind of services we offer. It lets us do what we're good at."

EMC has already shown it is ahead of the pack in terms of bringing to bear a wide variety of technologies into solutions, including VMware, Pivotal and RSA, Munn said.

"The solution playbooks make it possible to look at complete solutions," he said. "It gives us a road map, which is something other vendors can't do."

That is a big change from when Munn worked at EMC as a district manager developing opportunities for partners.

"The old Velocity program was a great program," he said. "But EMC partners were frustrated. They couldn't get value out of VMware. They couldn't get value from RSA. Now they can."

While details about which levels partners will start at are not yet available, the EMC Business Partner Program shows a lot of promise, said Michael Thomaschewski, director for the storage and data management practice at Long View Systems, a Calgary, Alberta-based solution provider and EMC channel partner.

"The ability to bundle services across the board will give preference to partners who go across the different tracks," Thomaschewski said.

NEXT: No More Deal Registration On VNXe, DD160 Sales

For instance, Thomaschewski said, a lot of partners have not looked at the kind of innovations they can take to customers working with Pivotal's application development technology, but instead remain focused on hardware sales.

"That is a limiting strategy," he said. "The days of hardware are ending. Something like Pivotal is important for the future. Long View started moving toward Pivotal for application development a year ago. It's not intuitive to us. But we have to do it to remain relevant."

There are two other big changes coming to EMC's new channel program, according to sources, both of which were later confirmed by EMC.

One major change is that EMC is dropping its deal registration program for a couple of its entry-level products, particularly its new VNXe entry-level arrays and its Data Domain DD160 backup appliance.

Deal registration in general is a popular part of any vendor's channel programs, and EMC solution providers expressed mixed feelings about EMC's decision to cut deal registration for its entry-level products.

EMC could lose some partners who depend on registering deals at the entry level, said Keith Norbie, director of server, virtualization and storage for the Eastern U.S. for Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based solution provider and EMC partner.

"EMC may be hoping a lot of volume resellers take on its entry-level lines," Norbie said. "That will increase volume. But it could cause issues with some partners. If they can't get deal registration benefits, their profitability falls. You pick your poison."

Deal registration in any event is not perfect, Norbie said. "Some volume resellers are calling customers right and left, registering everything," he said. "It's an epidemic. Finding new opportunities to register deals is getting harder."

For that reason, getting rid of deal registration at the entry level could be a nonfactor for most partners, Norbie said. Partners for whom deal registration is the only way they can sell a product probably don't have the ability to support that product after the sale, he said.

Cutting deal registration at the entry level could be good for EMC, Long View Systems' Thomaschewski said.

"If a partner goes in and quotes product just to get in the door, it could backfire on EMC," Thomaschewski said. "You could get partners selling something without proper sizing just to get the deal. Someone could sell a customer a DD160, then later tell the customer they need 20 of them to do the backup."

NEXT: Bringing More Services To Partners

The change in deal registration could make selling entry-level products harder for partners with no value-added offerings, Thomaschewski said.

"We have to provide business value," he said. "You can't do that by pushing a deal and then leaving. Who is going to clean up the mess? Another channel partner."

The move to drop deal registration for entry-level products will help speed up partner sales at the entry level, Ambulos told CRN.

"We want less friction on the low end," Ambulos said. "Partners have to come to the price support center now to get price relief. Distributors will take the lead at the entry level."

The move should accelerate and improve the entry-level sales process, Ambulos said. "We don't have any real volume products today," he said. "But with VNXe coming up, we want to streamline the process."

EMC also is adding services to its new EMC Business Partner Program.

EMC, which five years ago moved its services business to partners who get certified, is also providing its services best practices and methodologies to solution providers at the Gold and Silver tiers, making them available to partners for the first time, Ambulos told CRN.

"We are now offering services rebates to partners who sell them to customers," he said. "We want to reward them for selling the services, and help their overall margin profile."

However, Ambulos said, EMC does not want to conflict with partners' own services. "You can guess that partners who sell their own services get much higher margins," he said. "We don't want to add conflicting services. We want to complement partners' own services business. A lot of big partners with their own services capabilities sell our services."

EMC has been approaching channel partners to offer them more services, which is in general a positive move, Thomaschewski said. "But in some cases, those may be services we currently offer on our own," he said. "So we have to be careful about how this might impact us."

Partners have until Jan. 1 to prepare for the new program, but Thomaschewski said that may not be enough time for all partners to get ready.

"This program will throw a lot of partners' business strategies in the air," he said. "We'll see a lot of changes. Partners who are now at the Signature level, the highest level in the Velocity program, may have to move down a level in the new program.