Krithiwas Neelakantan, Director, Alliances and Channels, NetApp India, elaborates on the company's evolving channel ecosystem.
CW: It has been a year since you took over channels at NetApp. What has been your focus area during this period?
Neelakantan: From a strategy point of view, we have been working on improving our market coverage. When I say coverage, it also means that we want to have the right set of partners by geography, industry, and solution.
We have also tried to improve our focus on the partner competency part, because some of our partners have to compete with the large, integrated stack vendors who are much bigger in size. That's the reason why we felt it's important for our partners to be able to compete with players of all types in the market.
We also focus largely on developing the capabilities of our partner companies, in the areas of finance, ability to underwrite customer risks, and an ability to execute opex-based deals among a lot of other things. So, coverage, competency, and capability—the 3C's as we call it—have been our focus areas during the last year.
CW: NetApp has multiple technology partnerships in the industry. How do you leverage these relationships?
Neelakantan: We work very closely with our alliance ecosystem partners like Cisco, SAP, Microsoft, and RedHat among others. One of the focus areas was to enable our partners to work with our alliance ecosystem and deliver services to customers as a complete solution. We have increased our efforts towards working with our alliance ecosystem. The convergence point will be the partner who implements a particular solution for the customer. We are building our partner ecosystem skills around architecture and implementation, as well as support delivery capabilities.
CW: Isn't it a complicated affair for a partner to work with your alliance ecosystem members for a single deal? Wouldn't this model lead to multiple points of contact?
Neelakantan: I don't think that it's a complicated model. All the vendors (NetApp and its alliance partners) converge at the partner level. We work very closely with alliance partners to ensure that the SI is adequately skilled and has a common go-to-market and customer acquisition strategy. We have a list of partners whose skills and target markets are known to us. We share that list with our alliance partners and they come with their partner ecosystem details.
In fact, there are a lot of common partners already. Post the development of this engagement model, many of our alliance partners' SIs have started working with us closely. At the same time, many of our exclusive partners have got an opportunity to work with our other vendors as well. As a result, the overall skill, coverage, and reach of all the partners have gone up.
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