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EMC's Gregg Ambulos on distributors, partner program changes, more

At Global Partner Summit 2014, EMC channel chief Gregg Ambulos discussed the company's new Business Partner Program, distributors' role and more.

LAS VEGAS -- EMC Corp. channel chief Gregg Ambulos found time during EMC World 2014 and the company's Global Partner Summit here to sit down with SearchITChannel and talk about the new Business Partner Program, how EMC works with partners, his top three goals, and the absence of an Americas channel chief since the departure of Leonard Iventosch at the end of 2013. Ambulos is senior vice president of global and Americas channel sales for EMC.

EMC has a few thousand VAR partners, whose business is handled by EMC's distributors, and about 150 managed, or "direct," partners, which don't go through distribution but work directly with EMC.

EMC's overhaul of its partner program may be the biggest partner news at the Global Partner Summit. Can you share some insight on EMC's thinking behind the changes?

Ambulos: With the rearchitecture of the whole partner program, the biggest thing we wanted to provide for our partners is choice. So, we put all of the different partner types under one umbrella. Whether it be cloud service providers, solution providers, global alliances, RSA … we're seeing a lot of blurring of the lines now of partner types. For example, we're seeing system integrators that are now in the resell game when before they never wanted to resell. We're seeing the VAR community in the managed services game. There's a true convergence that's happening in the marketplace now.

So we wanted to make sure that under the one umbrella, the partner has the flexibility to play in all the areas that they feel are necessary because each of the partner tracks has been customized to how that specific partner goes to market. All of the benefits, all of the criteria in the cloud services provider program and in the solution provider program, global alliances, have all been customized. Partners can play in multiple tracks, and they'll get the benefits associated with where they are in those tracks.

This new program has been a whole rearchitect -- not evolutionary but revolutionary for us -- and this is going to carry us through for the next 10-plus years to help us capture the opportunities in the second [or the client-server computing model] and third platforms.

Will EMC name a new Americas channel chief?

Ambulos: Ultimately, we'll have somebody in that role but because of all the changes going on, I'll be doing both the global and the Americas for at least this year. I run the global channel but a peer of mine, Terry Breen, runs the systems integrators, outsourcers and global alliances.

What are your top three goals for the year?

Ambulos: One, we want to take more market share. Today, EMC has about 30% market share and we're the storage leader. In fact, our market share is bigger than that of our two nearest competitors combined. But, there's 70% market share that's still available for us to capture, so we want to go after that and take more share.

[That 30% market share is] across the board -- enterprise, SMB with VSPEX -- so we're doing extremely well, we're taking share but we have so much opportunity here we can't take the focus off. We want to capture everything that's in the second platform and position ourselves and do everything to capture the third platform.

We've made some great inroads in midmarket but it's clearly an opportunity for us to continue to grow.

Gregg Ambulos, senior vice president of global and Americas channel sales, EMC

My second goal: We're always continuing to improve the ease of doing business with EMC -- processes, training, experience, everything across the board -- for our partners, which is why we came out with this new program. I think that if you spoke to our partners they'd be satisfied but we'll keep working on it.

The third goal is about leverage. Our partners have made a tremendous investment and we want to make sure that we continue to bring them into opportunities and let them continue to run more of the sales cycle. [That] gives the partner the ability to establish themselves and provide value because if we bring them into an opportunity they can run a sales campaign, and … they're still going to go back into that customer and sell other things that are part of their overall portfolio and they love that.

In the meantime, we can just hand it off to our partner to run with it and now the EMC sales team is finding more opportunities and it's a win-win for EMC and the partner community. We have a great partner community. We've made a lot of investments and we want to make sure that we're leveraging them to the best of our ability within EMC to get the maximum amount of reach from them.

Are there any accounts that are off limits to partners?

Ambulos: Not really. We drew a line within enterprise and above that line they can go direct, and typically, those are some of our global alliance partners and some of our larger relationships. The EMC sales team can also go direct; however, a lot of our business goes through partners as a collaborative effort.

Everything below that line, enterprise select and midmarket/SMB, has to go through our partner community. We've been moving that line up over the past couple of years.

What is EMC's strategy for its midmarket/SMB partners?

Ambulos: We work hand in hand with our distributors so that's our big play there. Distributors implement demand generation, and we have a new program where distribution will drive our VNXe business and entry-level Data Domain business. So our VAR community works through our distributors for the lower-end offerings. We're doing more with our distributors; they're taking on broader responsibilities.

Is EMC trying to have a bigger push in the midmarket?

Ambulos: We've made some great inroads in midmarket but it's clearly an opportunity for us to continue to grow. There are thousands of partners that are coming into our program every year who are selling EMC for the first time, so that's great. We have partners coming into our program who before wouldn't have considered EMC but now they like our strategy, they like our federation play.

Ten percent [of our revenue] goes into acquisitions and 12% goes into R&D -- and as our revenue grows, the amount of money we put into that it continues to grow as well.

Is EMC changing its trainings with the new business partner program?

Ambulos: We've made [training] more accessible to partners so that they don't have to bother taking time out of the field. A lot of it can be done online now. There's streaming now, and it's easier to consume from a pricing standpoint. [There's] not as much instructor-led [training]. In fact, we're setting up virtual classrooms so there'll be 12 to 15 at a time.

It's also aligned with what our direct sales teams are doing around trainings on solutions as well. It's perfect alignment with what we're trying to do with our EMC sales force and our partner community. We made a conscious decision [about a year ago] that whatever we make available to our sales force, we also make available to our partner community at the same time.

What is EMC doing to familiarize partners with the new Business Partner Program?

Ambulos: First, the announcement just went out. Then, we have channel resources, our Partner Sales Managers (PSMs), in the territories, in all of the theaters. The PSMs own five or six relationships each, typically our larger partners. These partners, if you combine all of those, account for 85% of the revenue driven within EMC.

So [the PSMs] do specific one-on-one trainings with the partners to make sure they understand the new program, how to make money in the new program, etc., and then they're measured on how the partners do with the entire program.

Distribution also gets trained on the new program, and they go out and cover the rest of our partners.

Would you talk about the role distributors play for EMC and partners?

Ambulos: Distributors play a significant role. They're critical to EMC's success. Outside of typical logistics, they do demand generation, enablement, they get a lot of our partners trained, they help with the quoting process, they have inside sales people. … They're true value distributors who make tremendous investments in our business. Our business is growing dramatically through distribution.

So distributors address the midmarket partners?

Ambulos: If you take North America as an example, we have about 16 direct partners, that's it. All of the rest go through distribution. And those partners who go through distribution are playing in the enterprise, midmarket and high-end SMB. The bulk of our business goes through distribution today -- about a 60-40 split.

Do expect that figure to change?

Ambulos: I see more business going through distribution because what's happening is that you have all these new partners selling EMC for the first time. We're not going to take those partners direct so they're going to buy through distribution. Distribution has their current partners who make up their primary revenue stream and the luxury of getting everything else. So [when] partners from IBM, NetApp or whoever wants to come over to the EMC family, [they] sign up through distribution.

What about EMC's cloud service providers in the new program?

Ambulos: We've made some changes and significant enhancements. Terry Breen runs that program. We created a Bid Desk for CSPs to create some opportunities in the Americas, and it will go global in the second half of the year.

We have a Cloud Connect program now, so our solution providers and distributors get credit when they sell an EMC-branded cloud solution. We also added more marketing resources for CSPs and we tripled the number of sales reps to help them drive their business with EMC. So, we're doing a lot with CSPs.

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