NetApp Grabs Former Brocade Channel Chief To Head Global Channel Sales

NetApp's Bill Lipsin

NetApp has grabbed a former Brocade channel executive to head its worldwide channel sales.

Bill Lipsin, who until May 5 had served as the vice president of global channels and systems integrators at San Jose, Calif.-based Brocade, is NetApp's new vice president of worldwide channel sales.

Lipsin reports to Thomas Stanley, NetApp's senior vice president of global partner sales and alliances at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor. Working with Lipsin with a North American focus is Regina Kunkle, NetApp's vice president of Americas channel sales.

[Related: NetApp CEO Georgens Sees 'Re-Balancing' Ahead]

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Lipsin told CRN that he is bringing a global perspective to NetApp's channel even as the company looks for ways to leverage the channel to overcome setbacks related to a slow transition by customers to the company's Clustered Data Ontap platform, as cited during last week's fourth fiscal quarter 2015 quarterly financial analyst report.

The industry is going through a huge transition to the cloud, and Clustered Data Ontap is the main entry point for NetApp's customers and partners to the cloud, Lipsin said.

"The cloud is still a mystery to many," he said. "Clustered Data Ontap takes away from the mystery. Last quarter, over 100 partners got certified on Clustered Data Ontap. Those who made the investment are growing with NetApp."

NetApp can leverage the channel to get a huge multiplier effect, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems (IAS), a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp partner.

"A lot of people look at NetApp and say the company is in trouble," Woodall told CRN. "There are issues. But no one can say the company is not innovative. I'm expecting NetApp to be more aggressive through the channel. But it will take time."

Woodall said NetApp is taking a pragmatic look internally and externally at how to increase the adoption rate of Clustered Data Ontap as shown in part by the appointment of Lipsin.

"NetApp has a good story to tell," he said. "Now it's about execution and delivery."

Lipsin said he didn't so much as want to leave Brocade as he wanted to join NetApp because of its channel focus.

"I saw NetApp has a sincere desire to grow the channel," he said. "A little bit of that got lost over the last couple of years. But that's changing. I recently sat in on a CEO meeting, and it was clear the company wants to look at what it can do to bolster the channel."

Bringing partners to the cloud is a key investment for NetApp, Lipsin said.

"We want to provide the abilities to help partners help customers move, not piecemeal, but completely to the cloud and from one cloud to another," he said. "You may start with Amazon Web Services, but then move production to whatever cloud is best."

Despite NetApp's planned layoffs of about 500 employees through this year, which it revealed after reporting a drop in revenue and earnings for its fiscal 2015 fourth quarter last week, the company is actually investing more in the channel, Lipsin said.

"We're working to make the channel more effective," he said. "We had to do a re-alignment. But we're not cutting back on the channel. Where we engage customers with NetApp, we win. So we need more feet on the street."

NetApp also is investing in increasing its global partner marketing team, and in new training and sales enablement tools on all-flash storage technology and Clustered Data Ontap.

"We're going to compete better with the startups," he said. "The whole idea is to package up what made us successful in the past. We're going back to the future."

Brocade did not respond to a request for information on who is replacing Lipsin at that company.