Opportunity, Innovation and Loyalty: Building Successful Long-Term Channel Partnerships in a Rapidly Changing Industry

By Regina Kunkle, Vice President, NetApp


Over the past five years, as data has exploded and become much more central to business success, the role of channel partners and value-added resellers (VARs) has become a critical one. It is a transformation that has changed channel partners from providers of product to integrators of solutions. The difference is dramatic – and it has occurred over a dramatically short period of time.

It was not long ago that services consisted of essentially “rack and stack” a single manufacturers equipment in a process that could be completed in a couple of days. Today, in stark contrast, services involve carefully assessing an organization’s entire infrastructure to integrate systems, virtualize and consolidate complex architectures from multiple vendors. Implementation now can take weeks or months depending on the complexity of the solution being provided. As the VAR’s integrator role has expanded, the need for close and strong relationships between manufacturers and its VARs has become extremely important, to the point of essential.

From the customer perspective, CIOs are evolving to become brokers of information services that support varying departments across all levels of an organization. These CIOs increasingly rely on partners to help support their IT infrastructure. As a result of these changes in technology, delivery models and customer needs, partners and manufacturers can find their relationships under increasing pressure that can lead to conflict.

NetApp has long recognized the industry is shifting to a new approach in IT delivery and has consistently taken steps to evolve our partner program, with the goal of making it easy and simple for partners to experiment and adopt new ways of working with their customers. It is a reflection of NetApp’s deep respect and understanding of our channel partners – and a recognition that as technology needs change, so do the business models and relationships that form the structure of our industry.

As the leader in cloud technology – with such groundbreaking technologies as the new FAS8000 platform, FlexArray and clustered Data ONTAP – NetApp understands that great product is, of course, incredibly important to our partners. NetApp’s aggressive and relentless pursuit of innovation and improvement not only makes us an industry leader – it also consistently provides our partners with best-in-class solutions in the areas of performance, agility and consistency.

This core value of driving excellence in our space ensures that our partners are consistently empowering customers with the most efficient and effective technology solutions available from any vendor. The FAS8000 series and the enhanced software offering that accompany its launch is a perfect example. Now, vendors are able to offer customers the capability to respond quickly to rapidly changing – and intensifying – business needs. As organizations find the ability to manage data freely across hybrid cloud configurations a growing imperative, NetApp can deliver the scale-out innovations they now require – with a single storage and data management platform.

In the era of the unbound cloud, these are the capabilities that are more critical to success than ever before. And in an increasingly hyper-competitive business landscape, the efficiency driven by eliminating over-provisioning is not only a substantial value – it is also a significant competitive advantage. This ability to efficiently and effectively address real business challenges with flexible and advanced solutions is what positions NetApp VARs to be the kind of in-the-trenches strategic partners that enable customer success.

As fundamental as product is, though, NetApp also recognizes that loyal partnerships do not begin and end with product alone. Loyalty demands – and is about – something more.

That’s why NetApp constantly assesses our partner programs to ensure that they are the easiest, most efficient and most beneficial in the industry. We realize that our partners have a choice of who to work with and we strive to earn that choice every day with channel partnerships that are built on three primary tenets: loyal relationships, ease of doing business and partner profitability.

With great product, profitable programs and consistent support and communication, NetApp has been able to build longstanding channel partnerships that are praised as the best in the Americas. It is an approach grounded in the belief that what supports and strengthens our partners will equally support and strengthen us. Again and again, we see that the more we extend the loyalty, trust and respect that are so foundational to sustained growth, the more those same principles are shown to us – and passed on to customers. In a rapidly innovating and highly volatile industry, the result is the stability, profitability and trust that drives success, at all levels of engagement.


Good read. This is true for GSI partners/channels as well such as Accenture, IBM, Infosys, Deloite, TCS, HCL, and others, as they manage current infrastructures with thousands of FTEs on staff on any given major account. As clients ask their service provider to help them migrate commodity infrastructure to the cloud, they are challenge with the migration. Keep in mind, these GSIs have staff trained in the operation of a static "current" environments, not m-i-g-r-a-t-i-o-n. They will be looking for project based help and the VARs could assist with labor, bubble equipment or even the greenfield environment. Just another means to drive business to the VAR and help the "client" (the GSI) with a short term challenge..