Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

NetApp evolved its partner offerings this week, introducing a new name to the partner program, reshaping its field portal and providing additional sales and marketing resources.

The storage company laid out some strategic areas of focus for the coming fiscal year, including diversifying its partner base to reach out more effectively global systems integrators, hosting providers and the IBM partner community with which it has synergies and an existing relationship.

Julie Parrish, vice president of global partner sales at NetApp, called the changes evolutionary, underscoring that the investments are aimed at making it easier for partners to do business with NetApp and at expanding the types of partners and routes to market to end customers.

“We need to diversify pathways to customers,” Parrish said. “That doesn’t imply doing a lot of [partner] recruiting, but it means that we have to have the right paths to cost effectively reach mid-size enterprise customers.”

NetApp, which is primarily an enterprise-focused business, currently derives 20 percent of its revenues from the midsize enterprise, which they define as having between 100-1,000 employees. But Parrish said the company needs “to get a lot better at being profitable in this space by simplifying processes and packaging the right solutions with clear enablement tools around consolidation, ISCSI,” and other solutions that this market segment needs.

Of the key changes to the program this year, the first is a name change from NetApp VIP Program to simply the NetApp Partner Program. “VIP was too synonymous with VARs and resellers and this year we want to drive more diversification.”

Secondly, the company is introducing a new portal – the NetApp Field Portal — that serves both its internal sales reps and partners equally. The portal is set up to facilitate roles-based identification of partners based on the type of business they have and the type of customers and verticals they serve. So after designating their role into the portal, a partner is served up more customized content and information, which makes the entire interaction more efficient and effective, she contended.

Partners can also now send customers collateral such as product brochures and references directly from the portal, she added.

The final major change to the program this year involves a new automated marketing campaign designer resource that lets partner design marketing collateral that is either branded as NetApp or customized to the partner’s own company, Parrish said. The company has also expanded the means to receive certification workshop training to include more video on demand and other virtual methods.

NetApp boasts 2,800 partners worldwide, up 1,000 in the past year alone. Parrish said the majority of that increase comes from outside the United States, particularly in the EMEA region.

Besides wanting to extend its footprint in the midsize enterprise space, NetApp is looking to engage hosting providers to take advantage of the market movement toward cloud-based computing.

“We are really trying to get our arms around the most common deal structures in this area,” Parrish said. “Utility billing models, purchase models, how to get arms around situations where gear is sold in one location, but capacity consumed in another.”

The goal, she said, is to figure out how to shift VARs to this model and how to make money.

Recognizing another trend in the market – datacenter convergence – NetApp is examining its mix of global Sis to make sure that beyond storage-only integrators it is including those that also specialize in virtualization, servers and networking, she added.