Brocade aims VARs at convergence with partner program revision

Barbara Spicek

Barbara Spicek, Brocade's vp of global channel sales

Brocade has announced a refresh of its worldwide partner program that aims to bring all of its solution providers from various camps together and shifts the focus from volume to value and specialization within its program.

The revised Alliance Partner Network was designed to face two changing realities – an increasingly diverse Brocade partner base following its purchase of Foundry Networks, and changing customers needs putting additional focus on partner services and value-add.

“I’m a true believer that industry trends like cloud and convergence are strong drivers to more solution-like sales,” said Barbara Spicek, vice president of worldwide channels at Brocade. “[Our partners are] getting into way more managed services opportunities than ever before, and we want to create incentive for those partners irrelevant of their revenue delivery to us.”

As Spicek suggests, gone are revenue requirements in tiering its partners into Select, Premier and Elite categories. In are four categories of specialization for channel partners with revamped qualifications for its certifications.

The company’s Network Infrastructure specialization targets its traditional base of LAN and SAN VARs; while it adds specializations for Application Delivery and Virtualized Fabric for application- and virtualization-centric partners respectively, and a new Datacenter Infrastructure category fro partners looking to sell across the data centre.

Perhaps the biggest change to the program is the addition of its Value Incentive Program for its Elite partners, which offers increasing rebates for solution providers based on their specializations. The program allots one per cent for reaching the company’s growth targets, and one point for each of the four specialties a partner achieves, for a maximum of five per cent back-end rebate.

The company has some 400 Elite and Premier partners worldwide, but the Canadian community is much smaller, coming in at around 10 Elite partners.

Spicek estimated that with the new requirements, about half of its Elite and Premier bases will have to add additional certifications, but will “relatively quickly” qualify for its Network Infrastructure specialization. And broadening skillsets is already a priority within the company’s partner base, Spicek reported.

“Even if they’re focused on one side or the other, with the focus on convergence, a lot of partners are trying to cross-train right now,” she said.

To help partners get ready for the new program, the company is running a lot of “low-cost or no-cost” training for partners, including paying for partners to get Network Infrastructure certifications for the next six months.

“I’m a big defender of the idea that partner enablement and training is a vendor responsibility,” Spicek said.

Partners will be grandfathered at their current levels for the first quarter of the new program, giving them 90 days to get their certifications in order for the new program, Spicek said.

On the market development fund front, the company has gone from split “buckets” of marketing dollars to spend to putting all of its partner marketing support into a single pile, allowing partners “more flexibility” in their marketing spend.

Currently the company is targeting growing its business by about 20 per cent in North America, especially by working with larger networking VARs and by helping its “classic” SAN-focused partners expand into convergence opportunities in the network and the data centre.

The company has also revamped its rewards program for distributors, a move spurred on by what Spicek described as the move towards more value and more solutions focus from disties.  Under the new Distributor VIP, distributors can get up to four per cent rebates – two per cent based on the company’s general growth targets; one per cent for recruiting resellers, a figure which Spicek said takes into account both the quality and quantity of partners recruited; and one per cent for meeting individual objectives agreed upon by Brocade and its partners – which will vary depending on the focus of the distributor in question. Like it’s doing with its resellers, it’s a pay-for-performance model. In North America, the company distributes through Avnet Technology Solutions, Tech Data and Westcon Group.

Spicek said more changes are on the way in the near future, with a new Global Partner Locator slated to debut next month, also redesigned to highlight partner specialties. In February, the company is scheduled to release a product configuration tool for its partners, following that with a syndication tool that will allow partners to easily add Brocade content to their sites the next month.