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Splunk partner ecosystem boosts data analytics vendor's sales

The Splunk partner program has been updated with a revised governance document and a new deal registration process, as the data analytics company seeks to drive channel sales.

Splunk Inc. is getting a sales nudge from the channel, as the big data analytics software provider looks to boost its revenue past the $1 billion mark.

Splunk partner bookings increased a bit over 60% for the company's 2017 fiscal year ended Jan. 31, compared with fiscal year 2016, according to the company, which describes its focus as operational intelligence. The increase in bookings was still higher among Splunk's top 25 global partners, which saw bookings nearly double during that period. Channel-partner sales contributed to Splunk's fiscal year 2017 results, which saw revenue grow 42% year over year to $950 million. The company projects $1.185 billion revenue for fiscal year 2018.

Brooke Cunningham, area vice president of global partner programs and operations at Splunk, based in San Francisco, said the company views the channel as a key component as it sets its sights on eclipsing the $1 billion mark.

"We see our partners as a way we can go and, together, capture ... great market opportunities," she said, adding the company has 749 active partners.

In a December 2016 filling with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Splunk identified the expansion of its channel relationships and partner ecosystem as key elements of its growth strategy. In the filing, Splunk cited the ability to form "additional OEM and strategic relationships to enable new sales channels for our software" as an influential factor in achieving the company's goals. The company also listed the ability to help software developers use its platform through software development kits and APIs as an important factor.

Updated Splunk partner program

To solidify its channel outreach, the company on March 1 unveiled an updated Splunk partner program, which includes expanded channel initiatives, new partner categories and a reworked deal registration process.

We see our partners as a way we can go and, together, capture ... great market opportunities.
Brooke Cunninghamarea vice president of global partner programs and operations, Splunk

The Technology Alliance Partner program, for example, was launched in September 2016 to target ISVs. Cunningham said the updated program makes it easier for ISVs to engage with Splunk, noting the program now provides a quicker partner review and onboarding process. ISV partners create Splunk add-ons, connectors and applications built upon the software. Partner benefits include not-for-resale software and software development kits. Cunningham said more than 400 ISVs have participated in the program since its launch, noting that 74% of those companies are net-new partners that hadn't previously worked with Splunk.

The company, meanwhile, has formalized the services component of the Splunk partner program. This part of the program targets channel partners that seek to deliver professional services around the Splunk platform. Splunk, in recent months, has partnered with professional services firms, such as Accenture, which formed an alliance with Splunk in April 2016.

Similarly, Splunk has formalized its outreach to managed service providers (MSPs). Cunningham said Splunk will work through its distributors to recruit and manage MSPs. Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions is one of Splunk's distributors.

And Splunk has updated its reseller initiative, which has been in place since 2015. New features include revised rules of engagement, a simplified discount model and a centralized process for handling deal registration. The adjustments are based on feedback received from partners, Cunningham said.

Jeff Swann, director of solutions architecture at OnX Enterprise Solutions, an IT solutions provider in Thornhill, Ont., said OnX has participated in the Splunk partner program for a few years as a reseller. But he said he's interested in the MSP part of the program, since OnX runs a managed services business. He said the Technology Alliance Partner program may also be an option down the road.

Swann said OnX typically deploys Splunk in operational intelligence and IT security scenarios. Operational intelligence involves analyzing machine-generated data to provide insight into IT systems.

"We have a large installed base of enterprise data center customers, so certainly operational analytics ... is a sweet spot," he said.

On the security side, OnX has built an appliance based on Cisco Unified Computing System servers and the Splunk Enterprise Security application, a security information and event management offering.

John Ansett, director of operational and security intelligence at Trace3 Inc., an IT solutions provider based in Irvine, Calif., said the company's work around Splunk depends on a customer's level of maturity. Customers that purchased Splunk two or three years ago from competitors or directly may have fairly basic needs. For example, customers may need a platform assessment if they have experienced staff turnover since the initial Splunk deployment and have lost knowledge of how the software is set up, he noted.

Such customers may also need a data assessment to determine whether the data going into Splunk is providing the highest value. Use-case development is another service Trace3 provides. Here, the company helps customers "find additional value from the data already indexed within Splunk," Ansett explained.

With more mature customers, or those that are purchasing Splunk for the first time, deployments typically start with an initial use case. Traditionally, that use case has been IT operations, with a security conversation following shortly after, Ansett said. That progression has changed, however. He said customers have immediate security needs for Splunk, and IT operations becomes the second phase. 

Rules and registration

Resellers now have a revised and shortened rules of engagement document to govern their relationship with Splunk.

Cunningham said it became clear based on partner feedback that Splunk's previous effort "was unnecessarily long and not as clear as it needed to be."

The new version has been whittled down to a page and half. The document, she said, provides greater clarity with regard to how partners and Splunk will work together and establish bilateral accountability. The rules of engagement cover deal registration, customer quotes, support, maintenance and renewal. The rules also describe a path for escalating and resolving partner-vendor issues.

As for deal registration, the Splunk partner program now provides a centralized function responsible for reviewing and approving opportunities, a process that includes quality checks for rooting out duplication. The revised deal registration process also comes with a faster turnaround time: 48 hours for Splunk partner deal registration acceptance versus the earlier service-level agreement (SLA) of 72 hours.

Trace3's Ansett said Splunk's partner program has evolved over the five years the companies have worked together. He said the latest iteration of the program points toward greater simplicity.

"As with everything, simplicity is key, and measures have been taken to simplify the program, specifically around engagement for customers and SLAs around response times," Ansett said. "This is important to both Splunk and their partners in order to maintain trust and strong lines of communication for all customer interactions."

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