Q&A: EMC partner program also for networking solution providers

At EMC World 2010, we sat down with Kristian Thyregod, VP of Global Channel Marketing for EMC, to learn about the EMC partner program and what it has to offer networking solution providers. Find out whether becoming an EMC partner is right for you.

Networking solution providers have been preparing for years to offer services beyond networking, including storage. With an increased interest in things like unified fabric and other converged networks, it's important for networking solution providers to understand storage services. At EMC World 2010 in Boston, we sat down with Kristian Thyregod, VP of Global Channel Marketing for EMC, to see what EMC has to offer networking solution providers that are looking to get into storage services and may want to become EMC partners.

How big is the EMC partner program in terms of people who are networking service providers and are also offering storage?

Thyregod: If you take a look at the way that we have been segmenting the EMC partners into the programs, and you look at the top-tier partners that we have, within the top tier, 80% to 85% are actually already in networking, but they're also in storage. I would say that converged networking technology is probably going to drive an increasing number of partners -- that to start with were in networking -- that are going to start taking a look at storage. There are a couple of elements that are driving that outside of customer demand.

Technology convergence is one. If you take a look at our midrange portfolio and how it will develop over the next 18 to 24 months in terms of scalability and simplicity, it is likely to appeal to networking service providers. Because it is not necessarily going to feel like a forklift upgrade from a knowledge and skill point of view -- that they have to learn entirely new skills -- I think that might drive it. But I may be old fashioned; I think that all of it will start with customer demand -- what they will demand from the partner, and if they demand that, yes, you've been helping me with networks, so workload sharing, now I want you to deal with workload storage and management as well.

How does the EMC partner program deal with SMBs?

More on storage services for networking solution providers

Preparing a customer's network for iSCSI: Five points to consider

FCoE data center: Can data and storage network convergence go too far?

Storage network bandwidth planning: How to avoid network latency

Will InfiniBand get new life in the quest for converged I/O?

Thyregod: From a partner program point of view, we don't have a specific SMB framework structure. If you've taken a look at our portfolio as it has developed over the last three to five years, it may not have been that focused on SMB and more of what lies between the "s" and the "m." But when you take a look at our portfolio, we are cognizant of it and working on remedying that.

What are the biggest concerns that you hear from your networking partners who are looking to get into storage?

Thyregod: There hasn't been anything that has been brought directly to my attention, and we've done a fair amount of outreach in the form of partner advisory boards and councils. I think that if I had to choose one specific concern, it is always the investment that a channel partner is going to have to make. It's going to become a function of two things -- payback and return on investment (ROI). When will this start to pay off? How will I get ROI?

You need to look at this in the context of 2008 and 2009, which were challenging, to say the least. A channel partner will always look at the needed investment, at the kickbacks and the ROI. Partners do that when everyone looks at taking on a new line card or a new solution practice -- they always think: How is this going to impact my profitability? The investment is part of that, and the earning possibilities can offset that, but it needs to be transparent for them. How is it going to affect my cash flow? How is this going to impact my ability to start potentially building an annuity business? Partners who were in networking who are adding storage, and you look at the concept of potential private cloud solutions, they may not be that far off. But they're going to be balancing the three major concerns, which are investment, payback and ROI.

How does the virtual computing environment fit into the EMC partner program?

Thyregod: There is no specific virtual computing environment (VCE) track in our program. But if you take a look at the program's specialties specialities and you hone in on, you can find data center consolidation -- workload processing, servers, workload management, storage, and then over time, potentially networking. Today, there is no specific track.

I could be say if you see the number of channel partners that we have in the upper tier, our partners are already selling virtual computing environments (VCE) -- they're selling server, the storage and the network and integrating it. Come the time for a program point of view in between the coalition partners and the respective partners, come the time that we embed VCE in the partner programs or as a track itself, we need to assess that over time. It's not that we're not thinking about it, but we're just not there yet.

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