Software-Defined Storage: Nexenta Formalizes Channel Program

Don Lopes, director of channel and inside sales (left) and Tarkan Maner, CEO

Software-defined storage technology developer Nexenta, whose sales come exclusively via indirect sales channels, this week launched its first formal channel program as a way to build its solution provider base.

The new two-tier channel program comes a few months after the Santa Clara, Calif.-based software vendor hired as its first channel chief Don Lopes, director of channel and inside sales.

Tarkan Maner, CEO of Nexenta, told CRN that the new channel program is part of a move to help recruit solution providers who understand software-defined storage technology and who can help take it into the midrange and enterprise markets.

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Software-defined storage pulls the kinds of storage services performed by typical storage hardware, including such functions as deduplication, replication, snapshots and thin provisioning, into a software layer that can be deployed on top of industry-standard server hardware.

"We want to reach into segments where we're seeing a lot of success," Maner said. "We're looking for partners with vertical reach in such areas as health care, education, government, financial services, media and entertainment, and managed services. And we're looking to expand in Canada, the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic regions."

The new two-tier program includes deal registration, market development funds to drive new opportunities and sales enablement assets, including a startup kit and sales templates, Lopes said.

"We've also brought in new people to enhance our sales and marketing efforts in the channel," he said.

The company also works with distributors in most of the world, and is looking to sign one or more in North America in the near future, he said.

Formalizing Nexenta's channel program is something the company has needed to do, said Michael Tanenhaus, principal at Mavenspire, an Annapolis, Md.-based solution provider and Nexenta channel partner.

"Nexenta is putting structure where there wasn't structure before," Tanenhaus told CRN. "It's something they need to scale the business."

While Nexenta's new channel program is not yet perfect, it has all the elements expected of a first-time program from a relative startup, Tanenhaus said. "It's helping them understand problems in the channel, and gives them opportunities to evolve."

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Nexenta's software-defined storage solution is a good way to add value to commodity hardware as customers look to move away from proprietary storage hardware, and the new formal channel program will help partners take advantage of the technology, said Eva Cherry, president and CEO of Silicon Mechanics, a Bothell, Wash.-based solution provider and Nexenta partner.

"It's important for Nexenta to have a channel program to grow its business," Cherry told CRN. "And it's important for us. We sell commodity hardware, but in custom-configured solutions. So customer experience is critical. We want solutions that are consistent, and which have no surprises."

Prior to the release of the formal channel program, Silicon Mechanics worked around channel issues with Nexenta by building individual relationships with personnel within the vendor, Cherry said.

"It was on a one-to-one basis," she said. "But Nexenta needs more partnerships. The more successful they are, the better for us to help get its technology adopted. Nexenta has good momentum. But to keep the momentum out there, they need more partners."

Getting more channel partners selling Nexenta is important for the entire channel even if it means more competition, Cherry said.

"This market is big enough," she said. "There's now much more demand than Nexenta and its partners can fulfill."

Cherry said she hopes Nexenta doesn't expand too quickly, however.

"It's important to understand that entering a partnership with Nexenta requires investment on the part of the channel partner," she said. "You can't just sell a license and make money without being able to support the technology. It requires a lot of technology. Nexenta needs to be careful who it picks as partners."