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Channel chief Kunkle on building a focused NetApp partner program

In this Q&A with NetApp's vice president for the Americas channel, Regina Kunkle talks about the vendor's Unified Partner Program and her focus on growing the storage technology company through its channel partners.

This month, SearchITChannel caught up with NetApp's channel chief for the Americas, Regina Kunkle , to talk about her goals, challenges and how NetApp partners make money. A 10-year employee with the company, Kunkle has been serving in her current post as vice president for the Americas channel since August 2013.

According to Kunkle, 80% of NetApp revenue is through the channel -- a number that's increasing annually. About 95% of NetApp partners -- 750-plus -- are traditional resellers that go through distribution. Systems integrators and service providers add about 200 additional partners to the roster. NetApp has been shedding partners over the past couple of years after the number of partners in its partner program swelled. Kunkle explains why.

Talk a bit about NetApp partners and the company's Unified Partner Program.

Regina Kunkle: We're very dependent on the channel and rely heavily on our distributors Arrow and Avnet to help us streamline and be more efficient.

About three to four years ago, there was an exercise to sign up a lot of partners. We had come out with FlexPod, an integrated stack with NetApp and Cisco, and signed up a thousand or more partners. But what we found is that storage is a unique beast and it does require some sophistication. It's not a commodity product. So what we found was that the return we got for signing up all of these partners was very low.

We're really looking for a value play rather than a commodity play. And, like most vendors, we spend most of our time with the top 100 partners. And the rest are great. They bring in opportunities, and we work with them in different parts of the country from time to time.

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What are the advantages of partnering with NetApp versus another storage vendor?