Equinix adds first partner training programs as company restructures to strengthen channel

Ex-Rackspace channel chief Chris Rajiah also indicated that following a broad recruitment effort last year, which included mainly agents and referral partners, Equinix is focusing on adding key resellers this year, especially top Microsoft partners.

Chris Rajiah Equinix

Chris Rajiah, Equinix’s vice president of worldwide channel sales and alliances

Redwood City CA-based data centre provider Equinix has built up a large business since its inception in 1998 selling its colocation and interconnect services direct to customers. The rise of the cloud led the company to add channels to its business model, however, and they launched a global partner program a year ago. Now the company is strengthening its channel program with a new training and certification component, and doubling down on its investment in key solution providers, changing the recruitment focus from last year when volume recruitment announcing that Equinix had added a channel was the priority.

Chris Rajiah, Equinix’s vice president of worldwide channel sales and alliances, who spent almost 20 years selling Rackspace, acknowledged the company’s direct reputation was a concern when considered joining about a year ago. He indicated that he received assurances that the company was committed to restructuring in order to make the channel work.

“The new business plan under Chief Sales Officer Pete Hayes, who joined the company before me, really put channel in the DNA,” Rajiah said. “They decided that they needed partners to capture the enterprise, and as a company were willing to shift their structure to do this. This shift, how we go to market, is a massive investment, and we are doing projects with IT to change our internal systems. We will be launching these in April.”

In the channel program’s first year, a sizable number of partners – around 350 – were recruited . Most, however, were agents and referral partners, and Rajiah said this will change going forward, with recruitment being more targeted and aimed at solution provider and MSP and NSP partners.

“We built programs for resellers, for agents, and for referral partners, and we were very aggressive in acquiring partners in each of these buckets in 2015,” he said. “Last year, by aggressively recruiting, we created an awareness in branding that we are a channel company,” he said. “We put our net out in the sea and caught a lot of fish. Now, we are pulling back the net, and investing in core partners. A lot of our initial partners were agents and referral partners, and you can’t diminish the value of a referral partner or agent, because they are trusted advisors. But we have identified the partners we want to double down on. They are in the reseller community. We will be very targeted and very focused, and are aligning with Microsoft and others to get some of their top partners and reallocating our marketing dollars accordingly.”

Those large cloud providers with channels are critical because of the importance of Equinix’s Cloud Exchange to their channel strategy. It provides MSPs and NSPs with a private connection to leading cloud platforms and applications like AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Office 365 through Microsoft’s ExpressRoute service, and Oracle Cloud. This makes it easier for partners to adopt hybrid cloud and multi-cloud solutions.

Rajiah said the changes to the channel program reflect these strategic priorities.

“For 2016, we are saying two things. We will refine our incentive programs, and we will secure go-to-market strategies with these resale partners. We want them to take our product and embed it into their solution.”

They key announcement being made now isn’t a refinement at all, but is a net-new addition — Equinix’s first training and certification program.

“We now have such a program,” Rajiah said. “For other companies, this is standard, but for us, it is new.” It has two levels of certification for technical professionals, to ensure Equinix partners can handle the most complex enterprise IT scenarios.

Rajiah said Equinix is now using a channel-friendly sales compensation model.

“We work directly acquired deals, but when a customer wants a specific solution, they bring the partner into the solution, and the partner gets the back end rebate on that sale,” he said. “It’s a partner-friendly model where we pay both the direct and the channel 100 per cent of the sale value. It’s a 200 per cent payout. It can even be 300 per cent if it’s a global deal using a global asset.”

In Canada, Equinix has between 20 and 30 partners, about 10 of whom are resellers. Rajiah said that this business is primarily focused on Toronto.