Rackspace is on a mission to change its perception in the channel and start working with more partners, according to EMEA channel director John Coulston.
The infrastructure firm has overhauled its business over the last few years, moving away from being a hosting provider and instead partnering with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google.
Coulston said that around two and a half years ago Rackspace was competing with public cloud providers but soon realised that it "didn't have the pockets" to mount a sustained challenge.
The firm now focuses on providing multicloud solutions to customers - often managing workloads in multiple public and private cloud environments.
Rackspace is now looking to grow the proportion of revenue that comes via partners, with Coulston saying channel sales were "a small part" of the EMEA business in 2017, but will likely make a double-digit contribution this year.
"We are working with channel partners in two spaces," he explained.
"One is where we offer that portfolio of services to the channel partner for a custom bid environment. Partner A might have great sales engagement and the customer might want some managed services across numerous clouds.
"Building the certification and getting the cloud engineers in is not something that your typical VAR can do easily, so we can package together what the customer wants and sell it through the VAR.
"An alternative is that we might work with a VAR that wants to sell a managed services platform to a customer, so they contract with us and we build it for them, package it and sell it to them, and then they put in the front-end effort and sell it on."
Coulston joined Rackspace around a year ago and has since built an EMEA team of six - five of whom are based in the UK and one in Germany.
The focus of channel growth is largely on the UK, but Coulston said that good progress is also being made in Spain, the Nordics and Germany.
One of the main focuses for Coulston, he explained, is changing the perception of Rackspace in the channel so that partners don't see the firm as a competitor.
He said that Rackspace has market-leading technical skills, but still relies on various qualities that the channel can provide.
"Of course we compete with people and we have probably competed with channel partners in the past, but that is possibly because the channel partner hasn't understood what we do, not because we don't want to work with the channel partner," he said. "My job is to fix that misunderstanding and show how we can work together.
"We have a direct team but the way that we have built the channel business means it is highly collaborative - we are not in conflict with that direct team. We are constantly looking for partners that have intellectual property that we can take to market.
"We don't have the capability to do some development work that would sit on top of that, or we don't have the capability to sell them software licences to another part of the business."
Coulston has experience building out channels in a largely direct company, having spent seven years building Dell's channel across the Middle East while the vendor was not especially channel friendly.
"I worked for Dell for 14 years and built Dell's channel in emerging markets before Dell was a channel player," he explained.
"Michael Dell used to talk about being direct and cutting out the middle man, and at that point I was based in Dubai and was tasked with building a channel business.
"We had 35 people in Dubai and we had to look after 12 countries - 35 people can't scale across 12 countries so we worked with the channel. Michael was talking about being direct while I was trying to acquire channel partners."
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