Red Hat's New Channel Chief Brings Maturity To Cloud, Open Source Partner Program

D. Martin

The move by D. Robert Martin to take over the channel chief role of Red Hat after over a decade's worth of channel experience with VCE and Cisco Systems marks a new level of maturity for Red Hat's channel business.

Red Hat on Tuesday said Martin has taken over as vice president of North American partner sales for the company.

Martin, who started his new role on Monday, is a four-plus-year veteran of VCE, and since the third quarter of 2013 spearheaded that company's strategic initiatives for indirect business, including channels, ISVs, systems integrators and OEMs. Prior to that, he spent several years in Cisco's channels team.

[Related: Cisco, Red Hat Deepen Cloud Relationship With 'Journey To The Open Cloud' Program]

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Martin steps into the new role about three months after Roger Egan left Red Hat as vice president of North America channel sales to take a new role at open source startup Docker.

Martin told CRN that he was not running away from VCE, where he said channels are playing an increasingly important role.

"I am coming to what I think is a really good opportunity," he said. "With my skill sets and background in the channel community, as well as my background at Cisco, and where Red Hat is today, I think I provide a unique set of skills that they were looking for that makes it a great marriage for both of us."

Martin also brings to Red Hat a new level of maturity the company needs to continue its growth as a top supplier of technology for building open source solutions and clouds, said Bradley Brodkin, president and CEO of HighVail Systems, a Toronto-based solution provider and partner to Red Hat and Cisco.

Brodkin said Red Hat had a good channel program under Egan, and that he looks forward to working with Egan again at Docker. However, he said, Red Hat's solutions have rapidly advanced, and the company has needed a new way to look at how its channels can evolve to keep up.

"Red Hat needs to go to another level," he said. "I sit on the Red Hat partner council. The council has been trying to push Red Hat on the channel side. The company is seeing the need for change."

NEXT: Helping Red Hat Mature Its Channel Business

Brodkin said that Mark Enzweiler, vice president of global partners and alliances at Red Hat, has a great global view of the channel, but that Red Hat needs a strong executive to directly manage its evolving channel.

"Mark is an excellent numbers guy, and I love that," he said. "But Red Hat needs someone in North America who understands the marketplace."

From what Brodkin has heard, Martin is the right person for the job. "Based on what I've read and heard, VCE has been doing a lot of good things," he said. "It's been getting good traction, and a lot of air time. D. Martin will be a breath of fresh air for Red Hat."

Martin said changes in how Red Hat is approaching the open source and cloud business attracted him to his new position.

"First of all, I think that Red Hat is extremely well-positioned in the marketplace," he said. "One of the things that attracted me was the whole open source [movement]. It is clearly driving IT transformation. The model is open. It is future-proof. There is no vendor lock-in, and it is extremely cost-efficient for customers."

As customers change the way they acquire IT solutions, Red Hat's approach to the channel is changing, Martin said.

"Lines of business are much more important and much more influential in the decision-making process, [and services is] more important than it ever was," he said. "So my message to the team is we are going to grow the partner base. We are going to reward those partners for their expertise in delivering those business outcomes, and we are going to have a very, very successful time at Red Hat."

Red Hat also will likely benefit from Martin's 12 years of experience with Cisco, especially since Red Hat and Cisco in January unveiled a close partnership focused on helping customers move to the cloud. Both Red Hat and Cisco strongly support the OpenStack open source cloud platform.

"My relationships within Cisco and my relationships in the channel really blend with what Cisco is looking to do from a cloud perspective," Martin said. "It is a unique position for me with a lot of contacts, a long time at Cisco, a lot of channel relationships, the complete blend. That is exactly what Red Hat was looking for."

Martin said he views his new role at Red Hat as being an evangelist for indirect channels.

"I think there is some education from a field perspective and how we engage partners," he said. "So I will be focusing on that. I will be focusing on driving solution opportunities for our partners. When you look at those two things, I think field engagement and the ability to provide profitable solutions to lines of business, are going to be critical for us."