Red Hat's Online Partner Program Aims At Building Cloud Expertise

Two years after debuting its Online Partner Enablement Network, Red Hat told attendees at this week's partner conference in Orlando, Fla., that the unique partner program is turning its attention to the cloud.

With the new Red Hat Accredited Cloud Infrastructure Partner accreditation, Red Hat will focus this coming year on educating and enabling partners to sell open-source cloud solutions across the stack.

"For the last six months, we've been building out the cloud focus topics," Rachel Cassidy, vice president of partner enablement, told CRN.

[Related: Red Hat To Partners: Build Open-Source Practice Fit For Enterprise]

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OPEN has three basic components: an online learning environment, a technical library and a product demonstration system. Those resources are all accessible through Red Hat Connect -- the vendor's partner portal, Cassidy said.

The online cloud program will ensure that partners have developed expertise in working with cloud management tools, as well as Red Hat's OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service and the popular OpenStack cloud operating system.

"In this coming year, our area of focus and investment will continue to be around emerging technology," Cassidy said, "and adding to cloud offerings as well as emerging middleware solutions like business process automation, integration services and PaaS for developers."

The new accreditation will help Red Hat scale its cloud business, which can only happen through the efforts of dedicated partners, she said.

"In the cloud environment, it's never going to be just one solution provider," Cassidy told CRN. That's why Red Hat needs to help partners expand their capabilities working in heterogeneous environments.

Joe Dickman, senior vice president of Vizuri, a Red Hat premier partner based in the Washington, D.C., area, told CRN that the new accreditation will allow partners with cloud expertise to differentiate themselves in a market where a lot of solution providers claim skills they don't have.

Vizuri has been a Red Hat partner since the inception of the software vendor's channel program. Before OPEN was in place, "there was no barometer" customers could use to assess proficiencies.

"A lot of partners were asserting credentials without the proof," Dickman told CRN. "I put every single person on my team, in my company, through [OPEN] because it builds the same level of proficiency for all my reps, gives us a lexicon of terminology we can use to speak to customers, and delivery skills to actually deliver those solutions to customers."

That, in turn, gives customers a greater degree of confidence that Red Hat is breeding channel sales representatives that offer the same level of quality as their direct teams.

Dickman credits the OPEN program with bringing a "disciplined approach" to partner education.

"What Red Hat did is took their internal training and codified it," he said. "If you come in at one level and find value in the program, you can take online courses and build proficiencies."