Commvault Channel Chief On Doing Battle With Dell EMC, Partner Recruiting Plans And Where He Is Seeing 100 Percent Growth

Becoming The Channel's 'Foundation Ingredient' For The Cloud

Ralph Nimergood, Commvault vice president of worldwide channels, is expecting the coming year to be a period of acceleration and momentum for the storage software company and its channel partners.

The acceleration and growth, Nimergood said, is showing itself around the world and in each of the company's routes to market, especially the channel. "We're seeing really strong adoption of Commvault across all our partner types and across all our routes and across all our geographies," he said.

Channel partners, he said, "are recognizing Commvault not only as an enabler of the cloud, but as a foundational ingredient for what they're doing with their clients on their path in the journey to the cloud."

Nimergood said the amount of new business being brought to the Tinton Falls, N.J. company by its channel partners has increased significantly. "It's at an all-time high," he said. "For the partner community to actively open up their customer base of companies that aren't currently Commvaultt customers is really a measure of commitment and trust. It means they're willing to bring us into places we haven't gone together."

How is Commvault reacting to the increased demand for cloud services?

Commvault has kind of moved front and center in the thinking of our VAR partners. We're seeing a big uptick from our partner community to take advanced-level specializations from us in cloud migration methodology, application protection methodologies to allow them to be consultative and monetize that opportunity.

We're seeing greater than 100 percent growth in our enterprise customers who are writing to the cloud using Commvault technology, and in excess of 160 percent growth in the amount of information stored in the cloud based on our own instrumentation capability.

How many partners do you have now? Are you planning for growth in your partner ranks?

We have about 2,000 around the world, roughly, and I would expect that to grow in the 10-20 percent range next year.

Our approach at this point is that we've stepped up or relationship significantly with the GSI (global systems integrator) community. We've staffed a global team to enable that route to market more fully, and help their large enterprise and government customers manage through [their] digital transformation.

We're investing in our VAR partner community through two avenues: One is we're looking for specialized partners in our deeper verticals, like health care. We'll continue to do selective recruitment of specialty partners relative to cloud-only partnerships. We are putting more emphasis on that.

We are also continuing to expand our global alliance relationships, which have been extremely productive – companies like AWS, Oracle and Red Hat. We'll operate as joint solutions, and joint sales engagement plays, but also move that to the VAR community in a meet-in-the-channel model.

Are Commvault partners seeing a decrease in sales related to on-premises infrastructure?

We see a migration, if you will, to either public cloud or private cloud workload environments. However, we are also continuing to see strength in the on-prem business. Both sides of that equation continue to grow for us. The amount of workloads and the speed at which they are moving to the cloud is probably growing at a more rapid rate, but I don't we're going to wake up tomorrow, and it's all going to be in the cloud at the complete exclusion of on-prem infrastructure.

People are refreshing their on-prem infrastructure, but they're doing it with an eye toward the cloud. I think it's an 'either/and' strategy, not an 'either/or' strategy.

Are some of your partners cloud-only solution providers?

We have cloud-only integrators and consultants that specialize in enabling customers to move into, let's say, a Microsoft Azure stack, inside the Microsoft environment. Those partners are not typically in the business of reselling software licenses, but rather in the business of consulting and 'sell with' opportunities. We get a lot of positive input and support from the Microsoft Azure team to help us identify, and to make sure we're including and enabling that partner community.

Where is Commvault adding value, especially when Dell EMC and HPE now include data protection in their solutions?

There's no doubt that the storage suppliers are quickly abstracting their own hardware layer with smart, intelligent software to manage that. We're finding the capability we're bringing beyond the storage layer is really around our whole workflow and orchestration system and the ability to actually move it in a heterogeneous environment.

For example, in the EMC environment, it looks like the trajectory they're on is expanding their partner base so that it is an all Dell EMC solution set, and their whole partner reward systems is aligned to that. I'm not sure I would or wouldn't do the same thing under the same circumstances.

What I would tell you is that customers and partners are beyond the era of the Model T, where you can have any color you want as long as it's black. We're adding value by recognizing that we have multi-hypervisor, multi-database, multi-application, multi-storage requirements, multi-cloud federated data management. We're able to operate across all those continuums and provide a seamless experience to the customer, and that's something that can't be done in a single storage solution, data protection environment.

In your experience, how common is it for a customer to be 'all-in' with a particular manufacturer?

It's pretty rare to find a true, single-vendor solution. I'm not suggesting they don't exist, but I think the pervasive environment is part of the move to try to abstract the hardware layer and the whole move around software-defined everything is a move to allow that to happen. So I don't find too many enterprise-class customers who are single-threaded in either their server strategy, their storage strategy and even less so in their networking strategy. That bodes well for a company like ours that can move them into the future but can still bring along all their legacy stuff with them.

What is your sales outlook for the year?

We have a plan that will support significant growth in FY17 and into the FY18 fiscal year, which for us begins on April 1. We're deep into that planning cycle, and we're extremely bullish on the market opportunity. We have a CEO and leadership team that is extremely bullish on the channel and alliances ecosystem and we're investing appropriately to that mindset in the upcoming FY18 fiscal year. In terms of where we see the growth, we see continued strength in our base business in the Americas, Europe and Asia PAC. We're seeing strong growth in emerging countries, both in the emerging East and the EMEA region, as well as in Northeast Asia and other places in Asia PAC. The three big verticals for us are health care, which we're already seeing extraordinary growth, financial services and the telecom and service provider vertical; that's been very kind to us.