What's on Parrish's Agenda

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

Dispelling rumors and speculation about NetApp pulling out of the channel, the new channel chief says the storage vendor is going to enable its partners to grow market share and battle major competitors. In her gun sights: Dell and Hewlett-Packard.


Weeks will pass before Parrish has a full assessment of NetApp’s channel, but she’s identified two themes in need of addressing: making it easier for solution providers to work with the vendor and better channel field operations to enable resellers’ business. 


When it comes to the "ease of doing business" problem, Parrish muses, "I wonder if there’s a vendor out there that doesn’t have this problem." But NetApp’s problem is amplified, she and members of her team say, because of its strengths: strong technology building blocks that require customization for each order. The current partner purchasing process requires extensive consultation and configuration, which extends the ordering time. The cumbersome nature, she says, costs solution providers money and puts deals at risk.


The solution is possibly preconfigured bundles and solution building guidance. Stopping short of creating rigid suites of products, Parrish is looking to create new pathways in the NetApp product lines to expedite solution building, pricing and fulfillment.


"We’re not going to tell [solution providers] the answer and take away their ability to solve problems, but we’re going to show them the way to make a well-configured system that won’t blow up when they install it."


Field alignment is exactly as it sounds—internal organization for NetApp’s channel support network. Parrish says she wants channel account managers who are given the tools, resources and direction to engage with and enable the solution providers in their territories without conflict. That means more training, marketing and account maintenance programs. Such programs and resources current exist, but she says that they’re inconsistent in how they’re applied in the field.


Parrish believes NetApp’s and its partners’ growth opportunities rest in services. Because of the complexity of the technology and architectures, storage vendors have struggled with enabling and handing over services beyond Tier 1 support to their partners. NetApp earlier this year launched a program that has already trained 25 solution providers to deliver the full breadth of storage support services to their customers. Parrish and NetApp want hundreds of solution providers to go through the program.


"There’s a huge services opportunity with NetApp that I don’t know if it’s been touted enough to the channel community," she says. "NetApp has made it very clear that it's a vendor with a small services division. A lot of vendors talk about services, but I think this is a unique opportunity."


Developing and nurturing the NetApp services channel is of critical importance given the company’s ambition and competitive position in the market. Its solution providers need more revenue opportunities to keep growing and remain profitable, particularly in the current economic downturn. However, Parrish also has a wary eye on the competition.


The obvious target for NetApp’s market share growth is EMC, the 800-pound gorilla in the storage market. But Parrish says that Dell—with its recent acquisition of EqualLogic—and Hewlett-Packard present serious competitive threats that NetApp and its channel need to guard against.


"Accelerating our channel to get beyond EMC is what we have to do, but guarding our flanks against aggressive competitors in the rearview is definitively necessary. With that focus, I need to ask if I have partners that can build a business around NetApp. We need to make sure NetApp remains relevant. Growing in a hot market is easy, but markets always cool off."

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.

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