EMC Changes Partner Program Focus From Revenue To Training

EMC on Wednesday officially unveiled the newest iteration of its Velocity channel program to a group of solution providers attending the vendor's partner council meeting, held this week in San Diego.

The new channel program focus on accreditations instead of revenue goals comes as customers look at cloud computing and other new ways to manage their fast-growing data storage requirements, said Gregg Ambulos, vice president of Americas Channel.

EMC also wants to meld its traditional Velocity channel program with programs from a number of recent acquisitions, including storage dedupe developer Data Domain, security vendor RSA, and content management developer Documentum, Ambulos said.

"Partners want one program from EMC they can work with," he said. "So we are looking at how to make it easier for partners to work with EMC, including on a global basis."

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Next: Looking For Real Commitment From Partners

The new Velocity program consists of four tiers, and where partners fit depends primarily on training and services commitment. However, the two lower tiers still have an overall revenue requirement.

At the affiliate tier, solution providers are required to commit to $50,000 in EMC revenue over a year and get both sales and systems engineer training, Ambulos said. The training is done online, and takes only three to five hours, he said.

At the affiliate elite tier, partners will have to commit to $500,000 in annual EMC product sales, and get at least two sales accreditations and two Velocity system engineers. The required training can be done on-line, but the trainees will have to take a proctored examination, Ambulos said.

Affiliate elite tier partners also have the option to get trained on EMC's QuickStart offering, which gives partners EMC's methodology for planning, design, implementation, testing, and acceptance of its various products. They also have the option of getting tested to offer Velocity Services, which was formerly known as Authorized Services Network, or ASN, he said.

While the affiliate and affiliate elite tiers have an overall revenue requirement, the higher-level tiers do not, Ambulos said.

Next: Getting Serious About Training

Partners looking to go deeper with EMC will need to get trained and tested on specialties, Ambulos said.

EMC is making four specialties available to partners, including the consolidation specialty for solution providers looking to sell Clariion and Celerra hardware and related midmarket software, and the advanced consolidation specialty for solution providers looking to sell EMC's Symmentrix and VMax arrays and associated software.

The third specialty is backup and recovery, which requires partners get skilled in EMC's Data Domain, Avamar, Networker data protection software, and its Disk Library disk-to-disk backup appliances.

The fourth specialty is government and archive, and is based on the former Documentum content management offering, Ambulos said.

These four specialties are slated to be available January 1, 2011 will be followed in July 2011 by a fifth specialty, security, based on EMC's RSA offerings, he said.

Next: Getting Specialized

At the premier tier, EMC solution providers will need a minimum of one specialty, and are required to have Velocity Services capabilities and at least four accredited sales reps and two system engineers, Ambulos said.

At the highest level, the signature tier, partners will need three specialties and double the number of accredited sales reps, he said.

While EMC is downplaying the significance of revenue goals to its new Velocity channel program, Ambulos did say that each specialty carries its own specific minimum revenue goal. However, he said, the revenue requirements are much lower than in the older Velocity program which required, for instance, a $10 million commitment at the signature tier.

Also, Ambulos said, getting a particular specialty requires that the solution provider test out of all the different parts of the specialty, and not just the parts they may currently be selling. For instance, he said, a solution provider with experience in Data Domain deduplication appliances will need to test out of the modules related to Avamar, Networker, and Disk Library in order to get the backup and recovery specialty.

"A specialty is a deeper dive into the technology than before," he said. "If a partner wants to build its skill sets, it needs to look at the other related products and modules."

Next: About That Requirement To Get Tested On All Modules...

Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, a Minnetonka, Minn.-based solution provider and EMC partner, said focusing on competencies is a great way for EMC to get its solution providers to differentiate themselves.

Vendors have partners like CDW and others who focus on phone sales, but customers need more than phone calls, Norbie said.

"Customers need expertise behind the sale," he said. "The sales volume will follow. Specializations will give local VARs a better ability to compete on their own against the CDWs, or against national VARs or VADs (value-added distributors)."

However, Norbie said, he was surprised that EMC's new specializations cover such a broad range of products. For instance, he said, Nexus does great business with Data Domain, but not with NetWorker, which he called a very complex product.

"My revenue from Data Domain products is larger than from my core EMC business," he said. "If you are going to force us away from Data Domain because of the other products, well, shame on you."

Next: What About Competencies?

A better alternative to specializations is for a vendor to give partners the chance to get competencies based on a combination of skills and an objective analysis from the vendor's local teams, Norbie said.

"It would be good to have the local teams grade their partners on everything from the quality of proposals to the installation," he said. "Maybe they need a hybrid program. There needs to be some subjectivity in the field. Each of the vendor's channel managers know who the great channel partners, who the good channel partners are."

In the end, what the channel really needs is training and tools, Norbie said. "What partners don't like is needing to get all those certifications," he said. "We end up having an overburdened channel with all these check-offs."

Ambulos said that the accreditations gained as part of the Velocity program go to the individuals who get accredited, and not to the solution provider organization. Solution providers need to maintain the required number of accreditations on a yearly basis. As a result, he said, if an accredited sales rep or engineer leave, it is up to the solution provider to replace him or her as needed.