Latest Brocade Updates Target Partner Specialization, Cisco

Brocade on Wednesday made a number of additions to its Alliance Partner Program (APN), including that it will eliminate strict revenue requirements in its partnering tiers, hoping to encourage closer ties among partners by rewarding them for skills and segment expertise instead of volume.

Among other updates, it's also introducing a new program to fast-track Brocade certification for partners that wield some of rival Cisco's most popular certifications.

The APN changes, which go into effect on Nov. 1, remove the revenue requirements for partners and introduce Value Incentive Programs (VIP), which offer higher discounts and incentives to partners depending on performance metrics and the specializations those partners earn. The more specialized a partner is, said Barbara Spicek, the greater the opportunity to make money with Brocade.

"It is aligned with the philosophy that I always talk about: partners need to be more services- and solutions-led," said Spicek, Brocade's vice president of worldwide channels.

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The VIPs are open to Brocade Elite resellers, who under the terms of the program see increasing payouts based on their specializations. They're also offered to Brocade distributors, who see a progressive rebate scheme with cumulative payouts in some cases as high as 4 percent.

Next: Specializations Expand

The specializations themselves are expanding, too. Following the Network Infrastructure Specialization, which Brocade launched earlier this year for partners who focus on SAN and IP/Ethernet products, comes the Data Center Infrastructure Specialization, focused on converged data center network design. The next two specializations, Application Delivery and Virtualized Fabrics, are expected in early 2011.

Changes are also on tap for how Brocade distributes marketing development funds (MDF). Going forward, said Spicek, partners at the Elite and Premier level will be able to dictate how their MDF are spent instead of having to spend percentages their MDF allotment in pre-determined areas.

Finally, there's a new addition to Brocade's training curriculum that targets one of the vendor's fiercest rivals. Brocade is now offering its Brocade Certified Network Engineer (BCNE) certification in a one-day course for holders of Cisco's CCNA, CCNP and CCIE certifications -- in essence, fast-tracking BCNE certification for partners already trained on Cisco.

The online course, called Brocade CNE 250, compares Brocade and Cisco command line interfaces (CLIs), offers training and credentials for Brocade products, and includes preparation for Brocade's BCNE exam. The course itself lasts eight training hours and costs $99, and the BCNE exam cost is covered by Brocade, which claims the fast-track option reduces the time normally spent in BCNE training by two-thirds.

Next: Winning Partner Loyalty

Spicek contends that partner loyalty will be won by vendors who map their programs to partner specializations and reward partners for how they apply their expertise. That will be a key differentiator for Brocade, she said, against Cisco, Juniper, HP and its other competitors.

"A lot of what partners are hearing from other vendors is about monolithic vertical architectures and being asked to go one-and-all. Those aren't very compelling for partners right now because it takes their value away," Spicek said. "As the vendors get bigger and bigger, that creates a 90/10 situation where 10 percent of the partners get the majority of the business."

Additional tools announced this week include an APN Mobile Application for accessing Brocade APN program information from a mobile device, an online Marketing Resource Center that includes access to promotional materials, and the APN Global Partner Locator, which lets partners search each other by product and service specialty. There's also a customer quoting tool for Brocade solutions, which will be available early next year.