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CRN Exclusive: Puppet Launches New Partner Portal As Channel Push Heats Up

The IT infrastructure automation firm also launched a partner-only sales segment in early February.

IT infrastructure automation firm Puppet is debuting an upgraded partner portal as the latest in a series of changes aimed at putting partners at the forefront of driving its business.

In an interview with CRN, John Schwan, vice president of global partner sales and programs at Puppet, said the company is rapidly moving toward "partner centricity" in its sales approach and culture.

[Related: DevOps Opens Door To Helping Customers Transform Their Business, Not Just Run It]

Puppet is currently seeing less than 35 percent of its sales going through partners, but "our goal is to increase that dramatically this fiscal year," Schwan said.

"This is a cultural shift for Puppet, in the most positive way," he said. "The timing's right for partners to engage with us, and we're making all of the investments in people, process and programs to make that happen."

Puppet’s software is used to provide a common language for defining applications and infrastructure—leading to a standard way to manage all infrastructure such as private and public cloud, containers, storage and networking.

The Portland, Ore.-based company offers an open-source version of its software as well as Puppet Enterprise, which is focused on automating key parts of IT operations, such as infrastructure delivery and security.

Puppet is a "critical enabling technology" for digital transformation at end customers, said Erik Melander, executive vice president for solutions at San Ramon, Calif.-based Kovarus, a Puppet Platinum partner. "It's a tool that customers can use to become more like a software company."

Due to its automation capabilities, Puppet's software has become a central component for many companies' DevOps initiatives, which target faster deployments of software.

At the start of Puppet's fiscal year, which was Feb. 1, the company introduced a new segmented sales model that designates corporate accounts as "partner-only," Schwan said. The corporate segment includes any accounts besides roughly 700 existing enterprise accounts, he said.


"Partners can know that they will be protected in that space, that there will be zero channel conflict with us," Schwan said.

Puppet will also work with partners when possible on providing solutions to the existing enterprise accounts, he said.

This past weekend, Puppet rolled out the new partner portal with comprehensive information on working with Puppet, online training resources and improved deal registration based on technology from Vartopia.

Meanwhile, Puppet is adding to its channel team, with plans to expand it from four people to 14 by the end of the current fiscal year, Schwan said.

Partners applauded the changes in Puppet's channel program. Kovarus' Melander said the shift in the sales model to boost channel-driven deals is a welcome move, and said the new partner portal and deal registration should "reduce friction" for partners.

"It just reaffirms they are really looking to make the partner program as easy as possible for partners like us," he told CRN.

Robert Yario, principal at Lombard, Ill.-based Puppet partner Column Technologies, also cheered the creation of the new partner-only corporate segment.

"It's a mutual partnership, a mutual business relationship where all parties win, including the customers," Yario said.

Puppet's current goal is to expand the business it's doing with existing partners—which total 174--as opposed to recruiting new partners, Schwan said.


"What we're really doing is making sure we're focused on the partners that have already demonstrated a proficiency to perform, that have trained and certified some individuals, but are looking to increase their service offerings around Puppet," he said.

Candidates for becoming Puppet partners down the road might include "born-in-the-cloud" solution providers, such as firms that partner with Amazon Web Services, Schwan said.

Overall, Schwan said the message is thus: Puppet "has a unique solution in the market, and a unique opportunity for partners. It's a highly service-driven opportunity for partners to engage with."

The moves in the channel program follow the appointment of new executives at Puppet this past fall including CEO Sanjay Mirchandani, formerly of EMC and VMware, and Schwan, a veteran of VMware who most recently was the channel chief at Tintri.

Schwan said he sees a parallel between the market opportunity he saw at VMware after joining in 2002, and what he sees for Puppet right now. "I would hope we can take this to a $6 billion company as well," he said.

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