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SolidFire partners linking up with NetApp channel program

NetApp and SolidFire, a flash storage vendor acquired earlier this year, are in the process of integrating their channel programs and partner ecosystems.

NetApp Inc. and SolidFire, the flash storage vendor NetApp acquired in February 2016, are combining their channel programs and expect to have the task completed by the end of August.

Mark Conley, director of worldwide channel sales at NetApp SolidFire, said SolidFire partners have been invited to join the NetApp channel program. He said the integration of the two programs and two groups of partners is now underway, noting that the process of incorporating SolidFire partners into the NetApp program began in late June.

NetApp purchased SolidFire for $870 million. SolidFire manufactures all-flash storage systems, targeting such areas as private cloud deployments, managed hosting, web infrastructure and DevOps. NetApp had been working on a built-from-the-ground-up flash offering, dubbed FlashRay, but discontinued that technology before bringing it to market. The addition of SolidFire gave NetApp three all-flash platforms. NetApp said its flash products address traditional enterprise infrastructure buyers, application owners and next-generation infrastructure buyers, with SolidFire geared toward the latter segment.

Conley said the channel programs started out with a degree of commonality: SolidFire had a bit more than 230 companies in its partner program at the time of the merger, 90 of which were also NetApp partners. The programs were similarly designed, both using a tiered structure.

"We found just a very few gaps," Conley said.

Channel companies are in the process of getting familiar with the expanded product line.

"There's a lot there to look at," said Dan Crowe, managing consultant at ShapeBlue South Africa in Cape Town. ShapeBlue, a consulting and integration firm focusing on cloud infrastructure, was originally a SolidFire partner and is now considering the wider NetApp product line.

Crowe said he sees potential, at first glance, in NetApp's StorageGRID object storage offering. He also pointed to NetApp's OnCommand Insight data management software.

The opportunity is to expand our field of vision and focus on those NetApp partners.
Mark Conleydirector of worldwide channel sales, NetApp SolidFire

ShapeBlue, Crowe said, focuses on the service provider space, including telcos, ISPs and hosting companies.

Conley cited an opportunity to get SolidFire partners up to speed on NetApp products, noting that about 60% of them "didn't have a lot of exposure to NetApp before."

Another task is to educate NetApp partners on SolidFire's technology.

"The opportunity is to expand our field of vision and focus on those NetApp partners," Conley said.

Conley said SolidFire's channel managers remain in that role in the combined company and will bring the SolidFire message to NetApp partners. Training sessions are also getting the word out. A recent NetApp Partner Academy in St. Louis devoted one hour out of the six-hour training class to SolidFire, according to Conley.

Through NetApp, SolidFire has already added partners with which it didn't formerly collaborate. CDW, for example, now resells SolidFire products, Conley said. He added CDW recently closed its first deal involving SolidFire technology -- a contract with a county government he valued in the high six figures.

NetApp and SolidFire appear to be gaining some market momentum. TechTarget Transaction Index All Flash Arrays which measures a technology vendor's ability to compete for and win a deal, ranked the combined company second in its Q1 2016 index. That compares with a fourth place ranking for NetApp and a ninth place ranking for SolidFire in the Q4 2015 index. The rankings are based on TechTarget Research's quarterly All Flash Array Post-Purchase data.

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SolidFire partners are in the process of joining the NetApp partner program. What are your major concerns when partner programs merge?
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