NetApp Program Connects SPs, VARs For Storage Services And Cloud

NetApp is rolling out a new program aimed at making it easy for service providers and solution providers to partner for storage-as-a-service or through the cloud.

NetApp this week said it wants service providers to join its new NetApp Partner Program for Service Providers as a way to not only make the vendor's storage technology a part of their services offerings, but more importantly as a way to connect with NetApp's solution provider base.

Julie Parrish, NetApp's vice president for global partner sales, said the new program is targeted at service providers as a way to help them work more closely with NetApp's sales reps and partners.

"This lets the service providers build out their storage service, and brings them partners to go to market," she said.

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It is important to both NetApp and its service provider partners to make services based on NetApp storage easily available to solution providers because, unlike the other major storage vendors, NetApp has no plans to build a storage service to take direct to customers, Parrish said.

"Our entire strategy is to work with named telcos and branded service providers to help them push services to their customers," she said. "Companies like Rackspace and Terremark have big fat pipes for their services, but they don't have the kind of reach to go to all their potential customers."

Under the program, NetApp is offering two partner levels. At the platinum level are nationwide service providers, with Rackspace and Terremark so far the only two on the list. However, Parrish said, the company is in the process of signing up at least two major carriers.

At the gold level will be solution providers who are too small to offer managed storage services directly but who wish to partner with platinum-level partners to bring such services to their customers, she said.

Next: Getting Partners To Play Together

Platinum-level service partners are not required to partner with other NetApp solution providers, but they realize that not working with smaller partners would be a mistake, Parrish said.

"They can use partners as a way to reach out to customers," she said. "These large service providers don't have the feet on the street they need. So it's not a requirement of the program. We don't fell it has to be."

Solution providers also need not worry about potential competition from NetApp's direct sales team, Parrish said, as the company offers a compensation-neutral program which ensures direct sales reps get paid the same if they go through a service provider or a VAR.

NetApp's solution providers are already starting to see the benefits of the new program.

Stacy Schwarz-Gardner, CTO and strategic consultant at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp partner, said IAS has been trying to figure out how to mold cloud and service provider offerings into its portfolio.

"This can be scary for traditional resellers, because many of us fear we can lose control of our accounts," Schwarz-Gardner said. "Yet we have customers looking at service provider offerings to supplement their private data centers."

Schwarz-Gardner said she is thrilled that NetApp is going to bat on behalf of its solution providers to make sure service providers understand they need VARs as much as VARs need them.

"As a systems integrator, we can merge cloud or services offerings with NetApp's traditional storage offering," she said. "And we often know better about what customers are doing than service providers do, because we've been in the accounts longer."

Next: NetApp Offers Chance To Try Services

The new program makes it easy to reach out to a wider base of potential NetApp customers ranging from those who want absolute control over all aspects of their storage to those who want NetApp products but can't afford to own the solution, said Rolf Strasheim, director of client solutions at Peak UpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider.

For solution providers like Peak UpTime, working with service providers is the way to get a good start in offering storage as a service, Strasheim said.

"If we see wide adoption of the services going forward, this provides us a chance to test it out," he said. "We can work with service providers who will give us the opportunity for recurring revenue."

Partnering with a larger service provider also gives smaller solution providers a way to take advantage of other work they can do with their customers, Strasheim said.

"This gives us the opportunity to profit from the bandwidth we install for customer who need more storage, as well as from technologies like WAN acceleration," he said.

Parrish said that data centers are evolving from application-based silos to virtual data centers to internal and external clouds, and customers are at different places on that evolution.

As such, they depend on partners to help them understand what they need to do to improve their IT infrastructures and to implement needed changes, Parrish said.

"Customers have questions about how to implement virtualization," she said. "And when you talk the cloud, that's pretty business-specific. Customers are looking at what kind of partners are helpful, and how to work with them."