CRN Interview: Veeam Channel Chief Rooney On Partners Fleeing The Competition, And Winning In Multi-Cloud

Kevin Rooney says partners that commit to Veeam's multi-cloud, 'hyper-availability' game plan will realize huge growth in services revenue and deeper relationships with the large and growing network of relationships Veeam has built.

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With a new mission to push into the enterprise and a who's who of large, powerful vendors in its corner, data availability software firm Veeam is positioned for significant, rapid growth. Americas Channel Chief Kevin Rooney says partners that commit to Veeam's multi-cloud, 'hyper-availability' game plan will realize huge growth in services revenue and deeper relationships with the large and growing network of relationships Veeam has built and maintained with industry power players like Cisco Systems, HPE and NetApp.

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Market momentum is clearly with Veeam, Rooney said, and the company has had success displacing data back-up competitors like Commvault, Veritas and others as customers seek out modern, adaptable data availability solutions tailored to hybrid- and multi-cloud environments.

But while VMware and HPE veteran Rooney expects Veeam's growth to accelerate, his focus remains squarely deepening relationships with committed partners, rather than recruiting large numbers of new partners. He's currently working on how the company can make a strong services play through its channel partners with maximum revenue potential for those who deliver those services.

"Customers ask us for stuff all the time: consulting, migration, whatever it might be," Rooney said. "We have put together a small team to formulate what those plays are, then we're certifying our partners on that. They're accredited to deliver those services with revenue to them, not to Veeam. That's coming up."

What follows is an edited excerpt of Rooney's conversation with CRN.

Veeam is putting up some impressive growth numbers. What's working for you in the channel?

The thing that was great from the beginning was that it's 100 percent channel. In places I've been previously, it was inevitable that you had to tackle 'you took this deal direct,' or 'you're pushing us into this segment and we want to be competitive in all segments.' Partners appreciate the true definition of partnership. We are going to be successful together. Veeam is growing 35 or 40 percent year-over-year. It's been happening for a while now. It's no longer a start-up, but there's still this entrepreneurial buzz about where the company is going. That excitement exists for partners, as well. I've never worked anywhere in my life where I've had so many friends in terms of Cisco coming in, HPE coming in, NetApp, VMware, Microsoft, Nutanix, Pure, right on down the line. Partners aren't being forced into a relationship with Veeam, or to choose sides.

How do you balance Veeam's partner program with another vendor's when you're on a deal together? Is that done case-by-case, or do you have a system?

We do have a system. In the three formal relationships we have: HPE, Cisco and now NetApp, in every case, we're learning, and when we don’t get something right, we fix it. If Veeam revenue is sold via HPE, we will recognize the revenue for the partner in terms of achievement within our program, but they will recognize the back-end benefits through the vendor they go through, so it would be HPE's benefits, Cisco's benefits, NetApp's benefits. We will recognize the revenue for them to achieve status within our program, but there won't be a double-dip. For a salesperson's standpoint, it's different. We don't care whether the Veeam person gets credit for the business, whether it goes through HPE, or Cisco, or NetApp or Veeam. It's all the same. Partners like that because we're not creating conflict in the field by saying this needs to be my revenue or else.

In the two years you've been here, how have your partner ranks grown, and what are your plans for partner recruitment now that you've stretched yourself into the enterprise and 'hyper-availability?'

The program has stayed consistent. We have Platinum, Gold, Silver, Registered [tiers]. We want to give as much resource and attention to all the partners we can. We also understand within the construct of the partner community that invest more heavily in Veeam. In any given quarter, we'll have 1,500 transacting partners. The bigger numbers come from a set of partners that are heavily invested. We are their choice. They've got their sales teams trained. They've got their technical teams enabled. If the customers aren't demanding the solution based on the challenges they're facing, our partners recognize Veeam is the solution for them. Fundamentally, you have to have an industry-leading solution. Then you want partners that are committed. In the last two years, we are seeing the number of partners that have decided that Veeam is their strategic play in data availability go off the charts.

What's driving that change in strategy among partners?

Partners that used to do a transaction or two a quarter and see us as maybe the SMB play, they started to see that Veeam answers a lot of challenges for their customers and they doubled down on it. What we do is double down on them, whether it's marketing investment, or field coverage, technical dedication. We're trying to put more and more Veeam-badged SEs in the field married to just partners, partner SEs. There are absolutely capable of going to customers, but they're really standing arm-and-arm with partner SEs because our vision would be that it's interchangeable, whether you know that they're a Veeam employee or not, they're just as educated and able to position the solution as our own people. We've seen the ranks of those commitments jump up.

What's happening in the market that's got you focused so closely on partner commitment?

When you start as a young company, you're just happy to be seen on the line card. But now there's a huge opportunity out there to replace legacy and customers are doing it every day. We're finding partners that have a long history with people other than us in this space and they're saying this business has been a renewal-only business for them for the last two or three years. We need to make a decision about what's best for our customers or someone else is going to do it and we're going to be out. We're seeing partners come back and saying I'm ready to go. I'm ready to go back in and position a new license agreement for a Veeam opportunity as opposed to continuing to keep the renewals going. That has been a great opportunity for us.

Are you seeing Veeam win over partners from Veritas, or Commvault to do that?

Yes. And there are some significant relationships that are being looked at again, and they're saying it was a great run, and it worked at the time in terms of what the customer's requirements were then, but it's a different age now. Customers are demanding multi-cloud. It's not just hybrid anymore. I need to go cloud-to-cloud, all these challenges that weren't here six months ago, a year ago and certainly not ten years ago. Some of these legacy players we're competing against, their technology is dated and customer demands are different.

That can be a big risk for a solution provider. What's winning them over?

Partners are coming back, but it hasn't been overnight. You're always hesitant as a business owner, and many partners are, to upset the apple cart at the risk of costing yourself revenue and customers. But at the end of the day, what's been driving this is the customer requirement and we've got partners that are moving very rapidly to Veeam because they know that we have a stated vision and roadmap that we share with them that takes them well beyond the next five, 10 years. R&D is what we do. We iterate the product every six months, at least. They know, because they get briefings from our competitors, that that's not happening at other places. They have to ask do I get out ahead of this, or do I watch this business go elsewhere?

Do you have any plans for the remainder of 2018, or 2019 for changes and enhancements to the program?

We're very careful not to change mid-stream. We're on a calendar year, so if we do any iterations on the program, we try to keep it to the beginning of the year. I don't expect we'll have any changes for the remainder of the year. There are a couple of things coming out that are in trial phase. We have a Veeam accredited services opportunity for professional services. Veeam doesn't have its own professional services organization, nor do we want to get into spinning up an organization for professional services. Customers ask us for stuff all the time: consulting, migration, whatever it might be. We have put together a small team to formulate what those plays are, then we're certifying our partners on that. They're accredited to deliver those services with revenue to them, not to Veeam. That's coming up.

Where else have you made investments in the Veeam partner ecosystem?

Our enablement tools, and you'll see this as we go into 2019. We've spun up an entire Americas enablement team that didn't exist before. We're purchasing new digital learning tools that we use for our own people, and we're making them available to our partners. That will take the shape of online training. You can continue to do it in-person, and we'll do partner academies. Partners will see an uptick in the amount of tools to education not only themselves, but their customers. Assessment tools will be there, proof-of-concept. Those are things we've done okay in the past, but will be much better in the future.

Do you need to make a push to get a larger body of partners up to speed on services in order for 'hyper-availability,' and your enterprise strategy to be a success?

Yes. We don't have number, but the program launched in beta at the end of last year, and we now have tens-of-partners in it. That will continue to grow, but we also want to keep value in it. We're not going to have it so widespread that the partner doesn't feel they have differentiated themselves from others. They're investing the time to get accredited. They're investing the resources to do it. If I make it available to all, I've taken away what I've asked them to do, which is further invest. We will see it expand, but it's not with the purpose to get to some monster number, it's just to give us the coverage we require for customers.