NetApp has insisted it is committed to its smaller partners operating in the SMB channel despite betting the next stage of its growth on the enterprise.
Throughout its Partners and Pathways event in Budapest this week, the vendor admitted some have accused it of taking its eye off the SMB space as it looks to the enterprise to drive the next stage of its growth. But it insisted this is not the case.
Dave Allen, NetApp's general manager for northern EMEA, said its push into the enterprise has actually been good for the SMB channel.
"We have had to segment the business and if anything, it is a stronger partner play because we need to outsource and service-enable partners in that space even more... so we can focus some of the time and effort we have on building out that diversification into the enterprise," he said.
"We have some fantastic partners in the UK – your Softcats and your Kelways and these kind of guys – that are driving tremendous volumes of business and I see there is an opportunity there with massive growth potential in it.
"The SMB is a tremendously important business to us. It's the foundation of our business. We are absolutely committed to that space."
Some 1,000 new NetApp customers have been won in the UK SMB channel alone last year, Allen said, and the vendor boasted a 66 per cent annual hike in its total bookings growth in the EMEA SMB market over the same period.
NetApp's senior vice president for global channel sales and alliances Thomas Stanley admitted the firm's design team focuses on enterprises' needs first.
"Product development has to be [focused on] the enterprise because it is the most complex and the most diverse, so if we design there, there are things we can take to the SMB that they benefit from," he said. "When you're new to the market, you start with the simplest design and then grow, but as a mature company in the market – which we are – you start with the largest market and design back."
But he said the firm has taken SMB-friendly steps such as creating simplified configurations of its tech and offering single product SKUs to partners so they can still cash in.
NetApp said both the mid-market and enterprise partners have a key role to play in the next stage of its growth, which it admitted has stalled for some time.
For its latest fiscal year, which ended 25 April, NetApp's net revenue stood at $6.33bn (£3.77bn) – the same as the year before – something it admitted it was not happy with.
Allen said in his address to partners that growth is the only piece of the jigsaw NetApp is currently missing.
"I'm not happy. I don't know how anyone can be happy in reality with that [flat growth]," he said.
"We've grown market share, that's great – we are competing. You can look at those flat years and say revenue was flat, but we have just come through the hardest part of one of the biggest product transitions in the company's history, positioning us for the fight for the enterprise.
"The optimist in you could say they were three of the best years we've ever had and we've just repeated the three best years we've ever had from a revenue perspective. But the growth is inconsistent."
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