CRN Exclusive: PaaS Powerhouse Pivotal Introduces First Channel Program Around Cloud Foundry

Pivotal, the EMC-VMware spin-off behind Cloud Foundry, is introducing its first formal channel program Tuesday as the open-source Platform-as-a-Service technology expands its base of enterprises looking to implement agile software development.

Pivotal already has a thriving ecosystem, but the systems integrators deploying its distribution of the cloud-based development platform have thus far engaged with the company at only an opportunistic, ad hoc level, Nick Cayou, Pivotal's vice president of global alliances, said Tuesday.

The Pivotal Ready Partner Program will help partners jointly develop their businesses with Pivotal and more clearly convey their expertise to customers and other members of the open-source community, Cayou told CRN.

[Related: Where Will Ford's Investment In Pivotal Drive The Software Company's Channel?]

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"As we've crystallized our product strategy, namely around Cloud Foundry, what we've found is in order to go to market effectively we need a really robust ecosystem of systems integrators," Cayou told CRN.

The program launches with 29 inaugural partners -- less than half the total number of integrators that currently deploy the platform to customers.

With two tiers -- Registered and Advanced -- the program has some traditional elements. But the open-source nature of the San Francisco-based company's flagship product also spawns unique relationships with partners.

Since Pivotal turned over the platform to the Cloud Foundry Foundation roughly two years ago, almost 70 companies have contributed code to the open-source project, Cayou said.

Some of those contributors are traditional technology vendors, including IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise; others are primarily implementers that partner with Pivotal.

Having partners that are also co-developers shakes up channel dynamics, Cayou said, as does Pivotal's practice of inverting the typical go-to-market order by frequently engaging directly with line-of-business leaders for its largest customers, then pulling partners into those enterprise deals.

Mark Carlson, CTO of ECS Team, a solution provider based in Denver, told CRN that joining a formal Pivotal program will help ECS represent its Cloud Foundry credentials to an expanding ecosystem and customer base.

ECS was an early PaaS implementer and Cloud Foundry Foundation member. Being recognized as an Advanced-tier Pivotal partner gives it a status with Cloud Foundry-aligned ISVs and hyper-scale cloud providers, as well as customers.

"As Pivotal really tries to drive consumption of licenses and subscriptions, being part of a tiered program means they are going to encourage and incent their field to partner with systems integrators like us," Carlson said.

That's a change from the way ECS has been driving engagements over the past year -- informal, word-of-mouth networking, he said.

The benefits offered by a formal program across several services delivery channels is important for a partner like ECS, which is also a Microsoft cloud reseller.

Pivotal and Microsoft have been forging a closer relationship, he said, as Microsoft invested in Pivotal's latest financing round and more than 100 enterprise clients are in the process of deploying Cloud Foundry on Azure, which is becoming an important channel for Pivotal engagements.

Cayou told CRN that Pivotal's first goal in establishing its program was putting all partners on a level playing field.

Since the release of Pivotal Cloud Foundry in 2013, Pivotal funneled much of its software business through parent EMC, leveraging the storage giant's master service agreements with its clients.

The new program "gets us to a point where we're driving more independent transactions with the systems integrator community, and weaning us off of EMC," Cayou told CRN.

"It did take us awhile to get this program out," he said. "It ties into the maturity of the product."

Cloud Foundry is now an enterprise staple, he said, deployed at scale by many Fortune 100 customers, including two of Pivotal's largest stakeholders: General Electric and Ford Motor Company.

"We intend to make this program more about intimacy and clients and embracing and working with partners in a way they're not usually used to," Cayou said, "and encourage them co-developing."

ECS' Carlson said contributing code to the larger project is an empowering role for a channel partner.

"In more closed-source partnerships, you can identify an enhancement request, but you have to wait for a long product cycle," he told CRN. "In commercially supported open-source, we might actually help create the solution."