Brocade Sweetens Partner Program Rewards, Adds Service Provider Specialization

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Brocade on Tuesday confirmed several updates to its Alliance Partner Network (APN) program, including more lucrative deal registration and MDF terms, a partner enablement fund for bringing new partners up to speed with Brocade more quickly, and a new service provider specialization to target partners that sell Brocade IP products to regional and national service provider customers.

There's a difference between basically enabling partners to specialize and rewarding them for the specializations and level of partnership they demonstrate, said Barbara Spicek, vice president of global channels. Brocade's

"The philosophy of offering partner benefits with pay-for-performance has been embraced very solidly by our partners," Spicek told CRN. "I constantly talk about the tremendous pressure partners are under as they try to find their place in the cloud and the complexity of all this technology. It takes a lot of money to get there, which is why we're going forward with what we think is a very modular set of benefits."

The changes continue an ongoing makeover of Brocade's channel program dating back to its acquisition of Foundry Networks in late 2008. In the fall of 2010, Brocade launched its Value Incentive Programs (VIP) to offer higher discounts and incentives to partners based on their specializations and various performance metrics.

About 100 Brocade partners worldwide are now participating in VIP, Spicek said, several of Brocade's most significant program updates are specific to VIP. For example, the company's top partners -- its APN Elite resellers -- have available to them a revised discount structure that provides payouts at a lower threshold.

Brocade is also going live with a specialization for sales to service provider customers -- an increasingly relevant market opportunity for the Brocade channel, Spicek said.

"In the U.S., there is a full set of business partners focused on the smaller service providers, so the certifications will be specifically for these kinds of resellers," she said. "We are also driving a dedicated recruitment activity on service provider partners through our U.S. distribution."

Other program sweeteners target demand generation and deal registration incentives. Starting this quarter, Brocade has increased the amount of deal registration discount for its IP products -- about 7 to 12 percent depending on partnership tiers -- and also added its adapter products to its existing SAN Deal Registration program.

Spicek said Brocade has also streamlined how it distributes qualified leads to APN partners. It's also upped its discount on demo equipment and changed the guidelines for use of its market development funds (MDF) -- two moves that Spicek said will help partners acquire demo equipment for a much lower cost, and in some partner cases, no cost.

Other new enablement tools target new Brocade partners. They include the Onboarding Portal -- designed as a one-stop online resource for getting partners up to speed with Brocade's partner program quicker -- and a set of "enablement funds" for demand generation, marketing, and technical and sales training. How well new partners are funded depends on a business plan they need to develop with Brocade to formalize revenue targets, Spicek said. But the goal is to give new partners a kick-start to their Brocade relationship.

"Most of the benefits in a partner program are tied to revenues, and if your revenue is zero, that doesn't sound so compelling, does it?" she said. "So we're targeting new partners we sign on but also those partners that have joined the program in the last two or three months and haven't yet hit their certifications or haven't yet produced revenue. We have to make sure we are kickstarting them."

Qualification and the business plan are required for the funds, but Brocade doesn't plan to strictly penalize partners if they don't hit targets right off the bat, she added.

"It's a leap of faith," she said. "And if you have partners engaged in demand activity, I'm almost 100 percent convinced you will see a business benefit. We're pretty adamant in terms of continuing to invest in the channel."

Behind the partner program updates, Brocade recently added to its enterprise networking portfolio with new Ethernet switches and new blades and performance updates for its chassis-based aggregation and core switches. In the former category is its ICX 6610 Switch, offering eight, 10-GbE uplink ports. In the latter, Brocade is now offering eight, 10-GbE blades for the FastIron SX switch series, plus a range of new features such as multi-chassis trunking.

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