Violin Memory has had a tough time over the past few years. Its arrival on the stock market in 2013 hit a bum note as shares initially traded for much less than it had hoped, and its recent financial results revealed it made a loss of $46.8m (£31.6m) in the three months to 31 January, compared with a loss in the year-ago quarter of $56.5m. A string of EMEA channel execs have defected to flash rival Pure Storage over the past few months too. But one of Violin's more recent recruits, Jeff Nollete (pictured), worldwide vice president for channel sales, insists things are looking up thanks to its recent relaunch.
You have relaunched your partner programme and overhauled your channel strategy. What was the problem before and what inspired you to change?
Our legacy is as a tier-zero, niche storage product player with very high performance and a leader in the flash industry. But we did not have a very strong channel, frankly, because the product itself did not lend itself to a strong partner value proposition. When you have a fairly small total addressable market and a niche product, it is not well suited to broad-base acceptance in the channel.
So with the introduction of our new flash storage platform and associated products it is a much different channel play as we are in the tier-one and tier-two primary storage markets. We are effectively tripling our total addressable market.
What does the new Violin channel proposition look like and how is it different from before?
We did not have the right go-to-market or the right product to be successful in the channel because of the relatively small total addressable market and the complexity of the product. So we now have a product which has tripled our addressable market [from $5bn to $15bn]. We've got a great margin opportunity for partners and extensive training and support programmes and automated tools that we are going to roll out - some of which are already online.
We will launch our new reseller portal which makes it much easier for partners to gain access to the information and the tools they need - for instance, deal registration is just one click away. There is a new quote tool and a new TCO [total cost of ownership] calculator coming online shortly as well as case studies and white papers and a multitude of other tools, including what we hope to be a library of go-to-market lead-generation activities which partners can leverage.
The flash market is incredibly crowded - both with start-ups and established storage firms - at the moment. Will the new channel push help you compete better?
Yes, much better. When I go and talk to partner executives, most are familiar with flash and most, frankly, have begun doing business with at least one flash vendor. The real key for them is that they want to know why Violin is different, so I talk to them about... [our] intellectual property and patents - that's when the conversation gets very interesting. There are a lot of real core benefits to our flash storage platform that our competitors can't touch and when you consider that all this is available to customers at the same price as disk, it becomes very compelling.
You admitted that in the past the technology you had meant you were not channel friendly. How are you going to win the channel around this time, and have you got a turnaround mission on your hands?
Yes, we do. We are actually relaunching the company around two major pillars - one is the flash storage platform and the other is our go-to-market model.
We are extremely channel-centric today. We do 100 per cent of our channel business in the Asia-Pacific region through the channel today and 100 per cent of our business in EMEA through the channel today.
We have a significant amount of legacy accounts that we work with direct in North America, but we plan on working all new accounts through partners, unless there is an extremely good justification for not doing so - for example, it must be something along the lines of a very highly rated Fortune company. That is the model going forwards.
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