Violin Systems: ‘Nobody Ever Grew A Business Without Channel Help’


Violin Systems Tuesday unveiled its first formal channel program, promising that any new business the all-flash storage vendor takes on will go through channel partners.

Violin Systems has also finished integrating its acquisition of the X-IO storage business, and is planning some major technology enhancements this year, said Gary Lyng, chief marketing officer for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Violin Systems is focused on tier-zero and tier-one workloads including online transaction processing, virtual desktop infrastructure, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the Internet of Things, Lyng told CRN.

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The company, previously known as Violin Memory, has also done well since its early 2017 emergence from bankruptcy and subsequent purchase by investment company Quantum Partners, Lyng said.

"Financially, [we] beat our numbers [last quarter]," he said. "We're on track for a better year this year. … We're not yet profitable. But we're on the track to be."

Violin Systems was not known as a channel-focused company, but that is changing fast, said Tim Cullen, vice president of worldwide channels, a newly created role for the company.

Cullen, who previously led the global sales operations for X-IO, told CRN that the company realizes that it needs to be partner-focused to grow.

"We have a pretty experienced leadership team which understands the channel," Cullen said. "We have a robust road map. And nobody ever grew a business without channel help."

Going forward, all new Violin Systems business will go through channel partners, and between 95 percent and 99 percent of existing customers will be served by channel partners, Cullen said.

However, he said, that will be done by focused on the quality of channel partners rather than ramping up a huge recruitment of partners.

"We're not aiming to have 300 to 400 channel partners worldwide with everybody trying to register one deal," he said. "We want a good mix of experience and geographies. We want to be a good partner ourselves. We want to be good channel guys, and work closely with our partners to grow both our businesses."

To do that, Cullen said, Violin Systems first of all focuses on developing high-performance, ultra-low-latency all-flash storage offerings differentiated with a full set of enterprise storage features including synchronous and asynchronous mirroring, deduplication and compression.

The company backs that up with healthy margins for partners combined with a simple online deal registration process, Cullen said.

"Traditionally, we have a 20- to 25-point range between registered and non-registered deals, but we have done deals where partners are getting more that that," he said. "We have such a differentiated product set that we can leave room for partners to add their own value."

Violin Systems is also now offering funding for joint events and programs with partners, including market development funds, sales spifs and so on, Cullen said. The company is also helping to pre-fund marketing dollars to jump-start the marketing efforts of some of its premier partners, he said.

On the technology side, Violin Systems this year is expanding its product line with NVMe-over-Fabric technology while continuing to expand capacity and find new ways to expand the software-based storage virtualization software it got with its X-IO acquisition, Lyng said.

"We'll be pretty disruptive in the market," he said.

While the legacy Violin Systems and X-IO product lines are both in the market for now, they address different market segments and are complementary, Lyng said. "But over time, our goal is not only to merge them into a single product line, but one that is compatible with both older lines so customers can scale up nicely," he said.

Violin Systems has the type of product lines that are easy to differentiate from those offered by larger vendors, said Alan Kerr, chief technology officer at Stablepath, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and channel partner of Violin Systems and X-IO.

While many vendors are moving to a software-only focus that leverages industry-standard server hardware, Violin Systems continues to provide value with both the software and the hardware, Kerr told CRN.

"Most vendors are ripping the intellectual property out of the box," he said. "They're not talking about architecture. They're ultimately selling based on who has the best GUI [graphical user interface]. Architecturally, they're not all that different. Violin Systems, on the other hand, architects its offerings from the ground up."

Violin Systems has become a good channel partner, and is expanding its work with channel partners in a number of different ways, Kerr said.

"We're in the process of developing joint customer references and case studies," he said. "Violin is doing a lot that is cooperative with us. They want to augment our efforts, and are asking what we are doing and what they can add to help us. With a lot of larger vendors, we get dictated to."

Stablepath is not getting dictated to from Violin Systems, Kerr said.

"The company is doing joint campaigns," he said. "It's a 'help us help you' model versus other vendors' 'Here are the 10 things we want you to do' model, or the 'My way or the highway' approach."