ZeroStack, Hyper-Converged OpenStack Startup, Launches Channel Program

ZeroStack, a startup looking to simplify OpenStack deployment through a hyper-converged appliance, on Tuesday launched a formal channel program as part of its effort to start recruiting a wider base of partners.

Roughly two months after the general release of its first product, the company out of Mountain View, Calif., introduced a formal program structure, as well as training and financial incentives for potential partners, Sean Cardenas, ZeroStack's vice president of sales and operations, told CRN.

"Bringing new technology to the channel has always been a challenge at this stage," Cardenas, who spent years at NetApp and built up the sales organization at Nutanix, told CRN. For partners, "there's always been a hesitancy and reluctance to embrace new technology for fear that it's not fully vetted or the right fit for the customer."

[Related: ZeroStack Emerges From Stealth With Hyper-Converged OpenStack Appliance]

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But the ease of use of ZeroStack's solution, and its uniqueness in the market, is breaking down that traditional barrier to recruiting a channel, he said.

ZeroStack makes it possible for partners to drop into a customer data center a scale-out appliance, connect to a Software-as-a-Service portal, and have their customers running an OpenStack cloud in about an hour, Cardenas said.

"On a daily basis, they're being asked about the maturity of OpenStack," Cardenas said of inquiries from enterprise customers to partners. Those customers want to know what hybrid options are available to them, and any way they can get away from pricier models.

ZeroStack, in the two months since the product's release, has designed a couple of programs and started training partners, treating its channel as an extension of its sales organization, he said.

"We're basically just wrapping details around what we had envisioned from the start," Cardenas said.

The company is also offering financial incentives to partners under a program with the politically topical heading: Make Cloud Great Again.

"We're working very close to partners to make sure there's significant margin in these deals for them," he said.

So far, ZeroStack has signed six solution providers as partners, and is in various stages of negotiations with an additional 15. The goal is to become an entirely channel-driven company.

Some of the larger partners are currently selling Cisco, EMC and NetApp gear, but are looking for a cloud-in-a-box solution that's easier to deploy, Cardenas told CRN.

Other potential partners are smaller -- looking to ZeroStack to launch cloud practices.

Jeff DiNisco, chief technology officer of P1 technologies, a systems integrator based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., that's an early ZeroStack partner, said the startup's hyper-converged solution is unique in that it solves two issues just about everyone acknowledges as problems with OpenStack.

"Complexity and time to deployment have just become kind of the common themes that go along with OpenStack. It's one of the first things that customers think of," DiNisco told CRN. "And these guys have taken it head on."

P1 works mostly with enterprise customers, and many "like the idea of OpenStack but not necessarily the amount of work associated with it," DiNisco said.

Those organizations, lacking the experience and skill to take on the open-source technology, are hoping to find resources that allow them to be successful with OpenStack.

P1's customers see the technology as an alternative to pricier solutions like proprietary private clouds. And even more customers show interest in OpenStack as an option to reduce public cloud spends, or pull back from the pain of poorly architected cloud solutions, according to DiNisco.

As enterprises talk more about transitioning to public cloud, partners are concerned about maintaining their business with those customers and continuing to have opportunities to sell them solutions, Cardenas told CRN.

"ZeroStack enables them to stay relevant in those cloud discussions," Cardenas said.

The discussions should focus on which workloads get moved to public clouds, which stays on-premises, and what vendors will help them leverage those hybrid environments without locking them into a solution for the next five years, Cardenas told CRN.