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NetApp launches managed storage services partner program

Network Appliance's new Authorized Professional Service Partner Program offers managed storage services training and support -- at a cost of $10,000.

Network Appliance today launched a new channel program allowing partners to provide managed storage services -- for a price.

Through the Authorized Professional Service Partner Program, partners can access the intellectual property used by NetApp's own professional services division and use it to develop managed storage services in one of four practice areas: design and implementation, storage optimization for virtual environments, design and implementation of virtual tape libraries, and Microsoft applications.

"The coolest part is they're allowing us to use our own brand name," said Tom Sylvester, vice president of technical services for Datalink, a NetApp partner in Chanhassen, Minn. "That's important for integrators to have some brand equity."

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Partners must pay $10,000 for access to the program, according to Rick DeTurck, NetApp's senior director of services marketing. Sylvester said that fee is a barrier to entry that assures customers they are working with a reputable NetApp partner.

"They are very sensitive about who represents them out there," Sylvester said.

Datalink did not have to pay that fee, Sylvester said. The company was one of 10 NetApp partners worldwide that worked with the vendor to develop the new managed storage services program.

NetApp will offer its managed storage services partners online and hands-on training, instant phone support, deployment tools and help designing custom services to meet customers' needs.

"It's a very collaborative engagement with the customer," DeTurck said. "We've heard from partners that they want to sell and deliver their own brand of professional services. They get more margin when they do that."

NetApp partners can set their own prices for their managed storage services, and they will also receive the same discounts, rebates and incentives as through the reseller partner program. The vendor will provide an online partner locator for customers, but its own direct services offerings will also continue.

"It depends on the customer's interest and what they're really trying to focus on," DeTurck said. "Certain customers tend to like to have a direct service relationship with the vendor, especially the large ones."

Sylvester said this kind of "co-opetition" with vendors happens all the time, and it's OK in this case because NetApp realizes that managed storage services are more profitable for the channel than they are for vendors. That realization sets NetApp apart from its competitors in the storage market.

"Traditionally our partners will want us to resell through their services organization with their branding on it," Sylvester said. "Our other partners are still growing and maintaining a professional services organization. It's more economical to use the channel to deliver services."

To become eligible for the managed storage services program, a partner must have two engineers get certifications in one of its four practice areas. NetApp is expecting a "very high" number of partners to participate, DeTurck said.

Although Datalink began predominantly as a reseller, services now make up about one-third of its business.

"That's been a trend for us," Sylvester said. "Every year it moves a couple of percentage points."

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