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If you want to limit the number of potential customers for any given service, make anyone who wants to participate pay a fee.

This approach may make sense for places looking to create a sense of exclusivity and ensure that they don’t overwhelm a limited capacity — say swim clubs, or one-man professional services organizations. But many businesses are looking to increase the number of their customers and scale the infrastructure to serve more of them.

In keeping with the I-want-more-customers goal, NetApp has eliminated the hefty fee attached to its new Authorized Professional Service Partner program. Introduced in February, the program was designed to encourage partners to sell and deliver professional services for NetApp data center technologies using the vendor’s best practices, tools and methodologies, training, and implementation backup support.

The problem was that NetApp required participating partners to pay a $10,000 fee aimed at offsetting the cost of NetApp’s professional services support center for partners. But partners balked at the size of the fee, and NetApp recently eliminated it, a spokesperson confirmed.

No partner had yet paid to be part of the program, and now NetApp says it will offer the program free of charge for partners.

That’s an approach that has paid off for other vendors, too. Oracle had previously charged VARs a $2,000 fee just to be its partner — a number that just didn’t offer return on investment for VARs that sold the occasional Oracle license here or there. But since Oracle eliminated that fee, it has picked up more business in that specific niche — money the company had previously left sitting on the table.

According to NetApp, the company’s Authorized Professional Service Partner Program lets partners sell and deliver partner-branded professional services with their sales of NetApp technologies, specialize in one or more NetApp solution areas, get hands-on training and service delivery methodologies and best practices, and offer value-added services that can help strengthen customer relationships and increase revenue opportunities.

The company now says it will eat the costs of providing these services, some of which had already been available to its own professional services organization.

What’s it worth to you? How much would you pay for best practices, methodologies and the rest?