EqualLogic Plans For Aggressive Channel Expansion

When Broadleaf Services decided last year to offer a storage array so it could provide its SMB customers backup and recovery services, it considered all the likely suspects -- EMC, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Network Appliance, to name a few. However, Broadleaf, a Burlington, Mass.-based solution provider, instead chose 4-year-old EqualLogic.

Nashua, N.H.-based EqualLogic was an early supporter of iSCSI, a protocol that lets organizations put storage devices on a LAN rather than on a SAN without requiring the use of more expensive Fiber Channel switches and related equipment. EqualLogic accounts for 11 percent of iSCSI array shipments, according to IDC, bested only by EMC and NetApp.

EqualLogic now has some 200 channel partners, however, it is setting to aggressively expand that to an undetermined threshold. Fitting in with that new goal is a plan to recruit new partners who may not necessarily be storage specialists. In fact, its message to partners is that it need not hire storage engineers in order to build a storage practice.

"It's not just the traditional storage VAR we're looking at any longer," said Bob Skelley, which the company announced this week as its new vice president of channel development. "We're reaching out to that broader channel."

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Skelley, who was recruited from Microsoft where he was director of distribution and VAR channels, said EqualLogic is not just looking for Microsoft solution providers. "We are compatible with other OSs as well," he said.

Like EqualLogic, Microsoft was an early champion of iSCSI, which is a key component of the software giant's Simple SAN Initiative, intended at simplifying SAN deployment, particularly among the SMB. EqualLogic was the first Microsoft partner certified by Microsoft under that program.

Skelley hosted a roundtable with about 20 partners at its Nashua headquarters this week, promising to roll out new channel programs in the coming months.

"We intend to scale our channel programs in '06," he said. For example, VARs will have a dedicated technical resource center, which is now shared among partners and customers. Plans also call for more training and market development funds, Skelley said.

"It's clear they are really investing in us," said Brian Layton, vice president of sales and marketing at Broadleaf. "It is staffing appropriately to build a stronger VAR community."