Q&A: New CA Storage GM Crest Takes Aim At Symantec

CA this week named Mike Crest general manager of its storage group as it steps up its march to dramatically increase its share in the Managed Service Provider (MSP) and cloud channel.

Crest, a 12-year CA veteran, will oversee the $4.2 billion software giant's Recovery Management & Data Modeling (RMDM) organization, including its popular ARCserve product.

Crest replaced staunch channel advocate Adam Famularo who moved to a new role as general manager of CA's Cloud Customer Solutions unit. CA also named channel superstar David Roberts, a former channel chief for Websense and McAfee, as vice president of channel strategy for its storage group.

In an interview with CRN Editor, News Steven Burke and Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar, Crest spoke about his plans to help partners increase services revenue and challenge rival Symantec.

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What impact will the channel changes you are making have on profit margins for partners and the storage business unit?

Today, we are really 2X our competition in terms of profitability for our partner model. We will continue to exploit those same tenets going forward. We think there is huge market opportunity for the evolution of the VAR community to become MSPs. My experience has been such that if you can capture more share in terms of providing a total service for a customer you not only have an opportunity to gain greater margin and greater revenue for your particular business, but you also have a captive audience to continue a more sustaining type of relationship that can sustain downturns in the economy and heavy competitive pressures. That gives partners the ability to create a longer, more meaningful relationship with customers. That is my aspiration.

How quick can you bring an integrated stack [made up of multiple CA products] to the table for the current storage partners?

Our focus right now is really to drive world class execution in the storage market. So we see huge upside for our partners there around MSP, cloud computing.

We think that data is going to be the precursor to almost everything as it relates to that. Customers aren't going to be willing to relinquish their applications or their infrastructure to a third party unless you have the ability to ensure that particular data is backed up in a reliable fashion and available. That is our mission. We believe we have enough opportunity for us and our partners right here, right now within the Recovery Management & Data Modeling business unit. That is our mission over the next year or so.

Is there one competitor in your sights as you look at this market?

Absolutely. I think Symantec is clearly the one that is in our sights both from a market standpoint as well as the technology stack. We believe that what we are doing around data deduplication in terms of embedding it into ARCserve is creating a more profitable experience for our partners to take advantage of that and of greater functionality, from backup to disk, while revolutionizing what is happening in the marketplace with replication of high availability.

Nobody is taking advantage of not only today's environment, preparing our customers and our partners for that in a much better way, but also for the future. The future we think again rests upon the ability to have a multi-premise capability taking advantage of cloud computing, on-premise and everything in between. We think we are better equipped and better capable.

Next: The Need For A Partner Ecosystem

You came from overseeing the direct sales force at CA. Can you talk about the opportunity going from the direct sales side to the channel.

Even on the direct side, I recognized the need for a partner ecosystem. That is a big part of why I am here. For example, one of the partners I worked with is TechTeam Global which literally built their business around our technologies as a managed service provider for small- to medium-sized firms. We were able to help them capture new revenue and streamline their process with our technologies. That is a level of recognition that I have coming into this that the world we are evolving to is one that is heavily dependent upon partnerships with both expertise in critical domain areas as well as relationships with key customer segments. The only way you accomplish that is through partnerships.

This market continues to go through a great deal of flux, and with flux comes some opportunity. I think that there is going to be a heavy transition to partners providing more of a service than strictly a product.

For us to take advantage of that cloud opportunity our technology is positioned in a way that provides customers and partners on premise and off premise storage management capabilities both in terms of tape as well as disk in a way that provides data in a highly available fashion.

The future is taking advantage of the cloud. So there is a huge opportunity for us we believe within the market and the partner ecosystem.

One of the big reasons that (new CA Storage Channel Vice President) David (Roberts) is here is that fundamental to our success in the future is driving execution with partners. Our technology is there and is going to be there. As such, our big mission right now is to drive better enablement and capability for our partners to make more money.

Talk about the channel budget you are bringing to bear to make this happen. Can you quantify it?

I can give you an example. We invested $20 million recently in the roll out of ARCserve r15. Clearly that is demonstrable of what we are doing going forward.

Clearly a person like David Roberts doesn't come without a great deal of serious thought on his part and our part and our commitment to the channel. By virtue of his being here it should speak volumes to the channel community.

Next: David Roberts' Nine Step Plan

Talk about what David is going to be charged with in the group?

What we are looking to do with David Roberts coming into the group is take this great foundation that has been established and accelerate it. That acceleration plan is really going to be a multi-step process.

There are fundamentally nine things he is going to do. One is to orchestrate and drive an integrated company planning process in which we look at the growth markets that this CSU (Customer Solutions Unit) reports to. Number two is to plan and recruit. So we are going to take a look at areas in which we think we can attract partners as well as develop partners along this continuum of providing them more opportunity to make more money with our technology stack.

Number three is really to take a look at the competitive posture. With competitors such as Symantec out there and a variety of other folks that are very formidable we look to differentiate not only to the technology stack but also the programs we bring to market.

Those programs are centered on how do we help our partners make more money, capture greater share and continue to grow their business through more services offerings and adjunct technologies.

The list will go on through things such as enablement, demand creation, driving sales execution, providing a services delivery model for them and with them, maintaining existing (customer) base through capture of existing renewals. And then finally ensuring we are measuring properly across the business and then repeating that cycle.

You'll see us over the course of the next month or so continue to roll out as a result of David's presence here the programs that enable partners to accomplish those things I just mentioned.

What impact has CA CEO Bill McCracken had on the channel moves?

Bill has a strong channel background with his experience at IBM and running that (channel) business. Bill has created a level of energy that has us on a mission to take advantage of the cloud. That is the reason we are taking a very capable executive like Adam Famularo and placing him in the Cloud CSU and of course helping us drive what we believe to be the fastest growth segment in the market today within SMB the Growth Markets CSU.