Channel Chat: Julie Parrish discusses NetApp networking partner potential

With more networks being converged, network convergence services may become a viable business option for networking solution providers. But this requires knowledge (and partnership) with storage vendors. In this Channel Chat, NetApp channel executive Julie Parrish discusses the NetApp partner program, and how networking solution providers can fit. Learn about the potential for networking solution providers to partner with NetApp to offer network convergence services.

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As network convergence services become more popular, it is apparent that networking solution providers are going to need to partner with storage vendors to properly offer storage services and data center convergence.

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This doesn't mean changing core competencies -- rather, this means that expanding your business horizons could pay off in both business and a new partnership.

In this edition of Channel Chat, we sit down with Julie Parrish, vice president of global partner sales at NetApp, to discuss the NetApp partner program. Discussion topics include how networking solution providers have begun to partner with the storage vendor, and what NetApp has to offer its variety of partners. Parrish also discusses storage and data network convergence, as well as what NetApp can do for its new networking partners, including training and benefits.

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The following is a transcript of the podcast.

Elaine Hom: Welcome to this edition of Channel Chat, the podcast series from SearchNetworkingChannel.com. This is Elaine Hom, Associate Editor, and our guest this week is Julie Parrish, V.P. of Global Partner Sales at NetApp, to discuss cloud computing and cloud computing networks. Thanks so much for joining us, Julie.

Julie Parrish: Thanks for having me, Elaine.

Hom: How does storage tie into the concept of cloud computing, specifically cloud computing networks?

Parrish: That is a good question, and I'm glad you asked it, because just the whole notion of cloud computing is one that people always want to take time to define carefully. So I'm going to start with a little bit of a higher level definition of cloud computing, and I think that will answer your question right around where storage really ties in. So, when we look at cloud computing in general for this conversation, I want to be sure that we are sticking to the off-premises, so not private clouds. We're talking about off-premises, outsourced, hosted outside a customer's actual building or premises. So let's start with that.

And then secondly, we tend to break it into four different areas. One would be Platform-as-a-Service-type offerings, general Software-as-a-Service offerings, Storage as a Service and, in some cases, Infrastructure as a Service. Very often people want to talk about Storage as a Service and assume that that may be sort of the only storage in play. But, in reality, all four of those offerings have a very, very strong storage component. So the short answer to your question is storage ties into cloud computing just like it does, you know, in an internal network or a private cloud offering. It is the underpinning of, you know, what needs to come. It's the underpinning of a larger data center infrastructure that would include servers and networks and applications. So it can either be a discreet service or it can be the underpinning of, you know, an application that's being served up on demand in the cloud.

Hom: How does NetApp help its partners with offering cloud computing services?

Parrish: We've developed a program over the course of, gosh, almost the last 18 months now that does a couple of different things. You know, number one -- and you may hear me say this again, you know, in upcoming questions --we encourage our partners to stick to whatever their core competency is. And if their core competency is not building out cloud services, I actually don't encourage them to go down that path with a really, really different business model.

For those partners who don't have a core competency in hosted solutions already, what we're doing to help them with this is we put programs together so that they can partner with service providers and hosting companies that are operating services on NetApp technology -- companies such as Rackspace and Terremark, for example. And partners can team with them, offer their services in various formats, and then participate in the revenue stream that comes from that kind of cloud computing model. So, that's one way that we help our partners. And by the way, that's actually the vast majority of our partner base. Now, there's a set of partners within our base that do have the core competency to build out cloud services, and, frankly, some of them are the hosting companies I just mentioned as well as telcos. And some of them are more partners that you would think of as solution providers or VARs but actually are already in the cloud business today.

What we're doing for those partners is we have design kits and architectures that are pre-built that help them understand if they're going to build out an offering on NetApp technology what are some of the pre-defined, pre-approved ways to do that. We have also put quite a bit of resource in terms of business development teams as well as storage infrastructure architects to work with those types of partners to help ensure that they not only build out a solution based on NetApp but look at how to monetize it and how to bring it to market. We've developed a lot of the back-end process and infrastructure that's required to support cloud offerings so, you know, contract templates, policies, and ideas for how you would do cloud computing, pricing, and things like that. So, we essentially have two ways for partners to participate. Partner with a cloud service provider, and that's one way, or we will help you, you know, build out your technology or your service offering on NetApp.

Hom: What are you seeing your partners lean more towards, and does that also reflect what the end users are leaning more towards? You know, is it public, private, or hybrid?

Parrish: You know, right now, we are seeing a lot more private cloud, so actually internal cloud, than we are public cloud, and some amount of hybrid. And I would tell you that the end user at the end of the day really drives any of these channel considerations. So it's not so much partners pushing cloud or partners pushing for private or hybrid. It's more, "What are end users doing?" And we still see that our end user base is, you know, spread along a continuum that kind of starts with more application-based dedicated architectures. Some of them are doing quite a bit with virtualization. Others are looking at bigger opportunities for more service-level agreement and dynamic data centers that are private. And there are others who are in the hybrid or the fully outsourced model. We do see a spectrum, but if I had to call it, I would say it's still more on the private side and on the hybrid side right now.

Hom: What is some advice that you can give partners who are thinking of offering cloud computing services, especially cloud computing network services?

Parrish: My number-one advice to them, and this is the one that I mentioned previously, is stick to your core competency. If your core competency today already includes being a provider of managed services or hosted-type applications or solutions, then I think you're well positioned to extend that naturally into Platform as a Service, application storage, some of the areas I referenced earlier. And the reason for that is a cloud model or a hosted service model is a really different model from a revenue perspective in terms of how you recognize that revenue, how you service it, what kind of skill sets you need as an organization. And it's not an easy thing to jump to. So the most important advice is stick to your core competency and don't worry if your core competency doesn't include cloud today. If you're working with NetApp, we've got ways to help you partner with those providers that are driving cloud services.

I think the second piece of advice I would give partners is not to fear the end user transition. You know, while I said earlier that we see more still in the private and a little bit in the hybrid space, we still believe that the transition to fully outsourced is occurring, not for all customers but for some. And not for all applications but for some. And the advice I have for partners is don't fight it. You know, continue to let your end users drive, you know, the solution model that is really best for them. Don't fear any of this going into the cloud because, at least, if you're working with NetApp, we're not going to compete with you on that if you are providing services, and we're working really hard to make sure that all of our partners have an opportunity to participate somehow with other providers. So stick to the core competency and do not try to dissuade your end users from the natural transition.

Hom: And that's about all we have time for today. Thanks so much for joining us, Julie.

Parrish: Thank you, Elaine. Really appreciate the opportunity.

Hom: Be sure to check out SearchNetworkingChannel.com for all of your networking channel professional needs. This has been Elaine Hom, and thanks for joining us.

This was first published in July 2010

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