NetApp's Boundary Lines

Under the forthcoming Hard Deck program, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based vendor of SAN and NAS products will work with its channel managers and district sales managers to determine which customers throughout North America will be named accounts targeted mainly by direct sales and which will be channel-exclusive, said Leonard Iventosch, NetApp's vice president of Americas channel sales.

Keeping those named accounts out of the Hard Deck does not mean shutting the channel off from opportunities with those customers, he said. "There is a direct-sales rep focus on named accounts," he said. "But in many or most cases, their business still goes through the channel."

Starting May 1, NetApp's district sales managers will tell solution providers which enterprise accounts are not in the Hard Deck. That list will be reviewed quarterly by district and channel managers.

"The district manager may have 70 [direct] accounts. He may say 60 are doing OK, but his reps are not calling on 10, so they may be released to the channel," Iventosch said. "Or they may see a dozen that partners are not calling on, and move them out of the Hard Deck."

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Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md., solution provider that has been working with NetApp reps on named accounts, said the program has improved his company's relationship with NetApp.

"We are communicating, mapping out the territory, and not running into each other," he said. "If I know a customer is a named account, why would I go there? But if I have a relationship with a named account and can find new business, the rep is happy I bring the extra opportunity."

Separately, NetApp this week will roll out a new solution architect program under which it will train solution providers' presales systems engineers to design solutions, as opposed to current training that focuses on post-sales support. "I expect it will make it easier for partners to be independent in designing solutions for customers," Iventosch said.

Edwards praised the solution architect program. "It helps us work on our own," he said. "We don't always want to rely on NetApp."

Besides its channel programs, NetApp will soon introduce new channel-specific product bundles, including its first iSCSI bundle and an upgrade to its Fibre Channel bundle. The bundles offer good margins without the need for special pricing, Iventosch said.