NetApp is to recruit both partners and employees after introducing "the new NetApp" at its partner event in Estonia, according to UK managing director Nick Thurlow.
NetApp hosted its Partner Executive Forum in the Estonian capital of Tallinn this week, and told a host of executives from its top European partners how it has emerged from a difficult period with a refreshed product portfolio and a focus on the hybrid cloud.
This transition period also saw the return of Thurlow, who rejoined NetApp from Arrow following a five-year stint with the distributor. Prior to joining Arrow Thurlow held a number of executive roles at NetApp over a 12-year period.
Speaking to CRN in Tallinn, Thurlow said that an overhaul of the vendor, led by CEO George Kurian, has been received well by partners.
"You're hearing a lot about the journey, transformation and product stuff, but for me the message to partners is that we've had a few challenging years - but NetApp is back," he said. "I think it's a good, positive message for our partners to hear.
"Over the last couple of years, under the leadership of George, I've seen [NetApp] change dramatically. What I'm hearing from the channel partners - and channel partners aren't shy - is 'you guys have got it back again', which is great to hear.
"There's definitely a different mood to when I was here before. I don't want to sound too sycophantic here, but George Kurian is driving a wind of change through the company and you see that in everything we do."
NetApp had earlier in the week revealed that its channel business now accounts for 82 per cent of all revenue in EMEA, which Stewart Filler, UK director of partner management at Computacenter, highlighted as proof of NetApp's growing momentum.
"It's a really positive message that we're getting with the indirect model and Computacenter embraces that sort of loyalty from partners like NetApp," he said.
"It's different from some of the competitors, so it's well embraced by the channel. It's definitely a channel-first model and the momentum that we've picked up from the event has been great.
"It has put momentum back into the NetApp business, not just in the UK but across the group, and it's now about executing on that momentum to bring mutual growth."
Partners and employees
Thurlow said that as NetApp enters this new era, the firm could turn to different types of IT consultants - both in employees and in partners - as software increasingly becomes the dominant part of its offering.
NetApp's EMEA general manager Alex Wallner had already stated that NetApp is not against a pure software play in the future, which Thurlow said requires a different breed of partner.
"It's not just about gigabytes and terabytes - all the things you talk about when you sell storage - it's about understanding the customers' business," he said.
"What you're seeing is some channel partners who are wedded to the traditional ways of selling storage. They've been successful over the years and will carry on being successful, [but] some have really grasped this new approach a bit more aggressively.
"There will be some companies that say 'yes, we'll architect your way to the hybrid cloud'. There'll be some companies that take it to the next stage and help with data governance and data analytics.
"In the future we'll work with companies like that to bring more value to our partners and customers because ultimately, if you're talking to a customer, they're interested in not just securing and looking after their data, but the applications that sit on top of that. Increasingly we have to be the enabler that brings that to our customers."
Despite the forward-looking approach taken by NetApp at the event, speaking largely about its new hyperconverged solution and hybrid cloud offering, Thurlow was quick to point out that storage remains key to the vendor's future.
"It's an interesting time because people have to grasp the new world, but we still want to sell lots of storage - let's be clear on that," he said. "Going out and talking about the data message and data fabric is a different vocabulary.
"I want people in the organisation who grasp that and that will mean training people and bringing in new people, possibly from software backgrounds, who are more comfortable talking about software than about hard drives and disk units."
View pictures of all of last night's fights
Acquisitive comms provider swoops on Frontier Voice & Data and StoneHouse Logic
Cybersecurity firm rakes in £3.6m for unwanted unit
Results, reaction and pictures from last night's CRN Fight Night