NetApp Expands Channel With Services, Certification And SSD Rebates

Regina Kunkle

NetApp is expanding its channel program with new services opportunities and a new rebate for selling flash storage drives.

The new program was unveiled to NetApp solution providers at the NetApp Insight conference being held this week in San Diego.

Regina Kunkle, vice president for the Americas channel, told CRN that NetApp has repositioned about six people from its professional services team to help solution providers develop their own services.

[Related: NetApp Reaches For Hybrid Cloud Via New Storage OS, Partners, Services]

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"They will shadow partners who want it," Kunkle said. "They will help size potential deals and scope the services properly. They will mainly help with pre-sales, but are also available for post-sales help."

Kunkle said that NetApp's professional services team is focused mainly on the company's very largest customers, but are available to help partners as needed. However, she said, this is the first time NetApp has made part of its professional services team available exclusively for channel partners.

NetApp has needed to improve how it brings services to the channel, and this is a good step, said Tom Holt, vice president of sales at Bedrock Technology Partners, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

"Bravo for Regina for putting services back in a channel context," Holt told CRN.

A lot of solution providers already have mature services organizations, and so they rarely use NetApp for services, said Brad Bailie, data center practice lead a MCPc, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

It might be a great way for some partners to help customers move from NetApp's 7-Mode way of doing high-availability that doesn't allow the movement of data from one controller to another, and its more advanced Clustered-Mode, or C-Mode, Bailie told CRN.

"Most partners are still focused on 7-Mode," he said. "The move to C-Mode is a huge change and requires a forklift upgrade. Last year MCPc decided to only sell Cluster-Mode. We do 7-Mode by customer request only."

NetApp is also opening its first self-service portal to help NetApp and its solution providers keep track of sales, engineering and services certifications.

Prior to unveiling the self-service portal, keeping track of certifications was a manual process, Kunkle said.

"Now partners have one portal to make it easy to see which certifications they have and what they don't have," she said. "It includes a single dashboard. Sometimes an employee leaves, which takes away a certification. If partners see a red light on the dashboard, they can click on it and see that they may need to get a new person trained."

NEXT: Certification Portal And SSD Rebates

The dashboard is also good for Kunkle's team when looking for partners with the right certifications to handle a specific project, she said.

That new portal seems to be following the successful Cisco model, said Bret MacInnes, practice director for NetApp at Trace3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp partner.

"It will be super valuable," MacInnes told CRN. "To figure our certifications now, we need to contact our TPM [technical partner manager]. He gives us a list of certifications we have. Then it's a manual process to see what we need to get."

The process is even more difficult when a higher-level engineer leaves and takes his or certifications, MacInnes said.

"We know when an engineer leaves," he said. "But we may not know that we are suddenly out of certification. If there's a dashboard that's current, it would be glorious. I could check it proactively every couple months. I wouldn't have NetApp calling to say, 'You need someone certified, and you have eight days.'"

The certification portal is huge, Bailie said.

"We had a hard time tracking, and NetApp had a hard time tracking, certifications," he said. "It's hard to get the needed information from NetApp."

As certified people leave a company, or when certifications expire, tracking them gets hard, Bailie said.

"Cisco does a good job," he said. "Cisco forces engineers to be CCIEs [Cisco Certified Internetworking Experts]. NetApp doesn't force that. But it's something NetApp should do. NetApp should create an elite status with a track for professional services certifications."

Bedrock Technology Partners has traditionally relied on its distributors to keep track of certifications and so it has never seen this as an issue, Holt said.

"People get certified reactively, not proactively," he said. "You do it because you get paid on certifications."

Also new is a rebate that rewards partners for selling SSD with NetApp's all-flash and hybrid FAS solutions, its EF series and its E series, Kunkle said.

The rebate is a fixed amount that partners get if they sell a certain number of SSDs. The number of SSDs sold is on a per-order basis, not a per-array basis. Kunkle declined to provide specific dollar figures or numbers of SSDs needed to be sold, citing competitive reasons.

Kunkle admitted to CRN that it is possible some solution providers might game the SSD rebate by combining orders or by adding SSDs to existing orders.

"That's what I want them to do," she said. "It's like adding fries to the customer's order. It means I'm selling more flash."