NetApp has said cutting its UK partners by a third has allowed it to invest in channel incentives it otherwise would not have been able to.
This time last summer, NetApp had 300 UK partners, but that number has now been slashed to 200 as part of a global initiative announced last year to work with fewer, more dedicated partners.
The cull has happened over the past few months after NetApp assessed the commitment of each of its partners. It measured commitment in two areas: revenue and accreditation.
The storage firm upped the revenue threshold for its lowest-level partners from $20,000 (£13,400) per year to $60,000 per year to ensure only those financially committed to the company remain in its partner programme. It also gave partners that were not up to date on its training a window of opportunity to get up to speed before considering ditching them.
NetApp's senior director of partners and pathways Pete Rawden (pictured) said the move has freed up crucial cash to invest in committed partners.
"It allowed us to put more benefits into the programme for the partners that remained," he said. "A couple of examples of that are growth programmes for Silver and Gold partners and one which is currently running for all partners for selling into net-new customers in the MSB [medium-sized and small business] space. I don't think we'd have been able to do that if we hadn't done the reduction. We were spreading [investment] across too many partners."
He said on top of this, the increased amount of business the new scheme has generated in the MSB space has meant it has invested in 10 new graduate sales staff to support future growth.
Of the partners which faced the chop last summer when NetApp made its announcement to downsize its programme, about half were inspired to invest more and reach the new targets and the other half accepted they would be demoted, Rawden said.
He added that the remaining partners are pleased with NetApp's renewed focus on their business.
"For some of those Silver and Gold partners – because we had so many partners – the benefits we had were not so strong," he said. "They were not seeing [new programmes] before. Because we have removed a number of partners, it allowed us to reward more the ones left."
Flash in the pan
Rawden said customers are flocking towards his firm's flash products and insisted more-established companies such as NetApp are beating off the aggressive start-ups which are making lots of noise in the market.
"The newer start-ups get airtime because they are new – of course, everyone is interested in new developments – but a number of those start-ups have been all-flash focused but that currently is not the larger market," he said.
"The hybrid flash market is the larger opportunity and inside that market, the more experienced enterprise players such as us have a significant customer base and presence that gives the mainstream vendors more advantages."
According to IDC, in 2014, the hybrid-flash array market reached $10bn while the all-flash array market reached only $1.3bn.
Rawden added that bigger is often better when it comes to storage.
"Why would you put your most important and critical workloads on a small organisation with limited support capability?" he said.
"Again, I think that plays to the main vendors because we already have an in-situ support team delivering high-quality support either by ourselves or via partners. The newness of start-ups generates excitement but when you're a customer and you evaluate the market, you're not just looking for the shiniest box."
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