CRN Exclusive: Hot Startup Velostrata Has Its First Channel Chief

Velostrata, a startup that's attracted enormous attention since exiting stealth by touting its ability to decouple storage from cloud resources, has appointed its first channel chief.

John Donnelly, previously senior vice president of sales at MobileIron and before that vice president of sales at Symantec, joined the Israeli-American startup last week. The new vice president of worldwide sales will lead Velostrata's efforts to develop a channel program as it prepares to formally introduce its software into the market.

Donnelly told CRN he has set his sights on building a sales organization and figuring out a go-to-market strategy for a product that aims to break down a barrier to hybrid cloud adoption -- the sometimes-undesired interdependence of storage and compute -- and in so doing create new opportunities for the channel.

[Related: Velostrata Exits Stealth Ready To Tear Down A Barrier To Cloud Adoption]

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Before he was officially hired, Donnelly spent a few months consulting for the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup and with its R&D office in Tel Aviv. He said he considered all sales models before squarely deciding on a channel approach.

"Is there an existing channel that we can join on? Do we have to build it from scratch? Do we go direct?" Donnelly said were the questions he asked himself and other Velostrata executives.

"One thing that became really obvious early on is this is a great channel opportunity," Donnelly told CRN.

The problem with hybrid cloud today is the difficulty in migrating workloads away from existing infrastructure, Donnelly said. Sure, there are "a bunch of big guys in that space that will charge you a lot of money, do yearlong projects, but it's not cost-effective."

Those forklift migrations eliminate much of the value of using hybrid cloud, he said.

Many organizations would prefer to keep their databases stored in their data center while bursting into the cloud to leverage compute and memory resources, Donnelly explained, and "the complexity of decoupling from the data center goes away with Velostrata."

That makes Velostrata's technology an easy sell to potential partners, he added.

"Partners are super excited about how they can make money in this space, and that's always the most important thing," he told CRN.

Velostrata has hired sales managers who are intimately familiar with the channel model and the partner communities of various vendors, he said.

They are getting a lot of traction with VMware's channel, he said, and also having productive talks with many Amazon Web Services-affiliated solution providers.

Donnelly told CRN that when he left MobileIron, he looked at about 50 companies, most in the security space. He said that category felt "overdone" and it looked to him that both partners and customers were confused by the available technology.

The nice thing about Velostrata's technology, he told CRN, is that it's easy to explain -- both to partners and customers.

"Partners immediately got it. When I told them what it did, they said we need that," Donnelly said. And "customers have told me, if it does what you say, we need this tomorrow."

Velostrata hasn't yet generally released its solution, however, and is still conducting a customer-evaluation period.

Donnelly believes that as the major cloud providers battle for dominance in their ultracompetitive market, they will all seek out the capability Velostrata offers -- those providers don't want to shun customers who don't want to use their clouds for all their storage.

Velostrata currently supports AWS, and will release Azure compatibility in the first half of the year.

But it's VMware's channel that's critical to the company, said Donnelly.

"They do a great job training and educating channel partners to provide class-A support. It's a world-class channel organization," Donnelly said of the virtualization leader.

So far Velostrata has trained eight solution providers to start working with its software and sell add-on services.

"We want to help accelerate the wave of hybrid computing, which in the next five years will be the way most companies do business," Donnelly told CRN.