Docker revamps partner program, adds SYNNEX as exclusive distributor

Today about 30 per cent of Docker’s business is channel, but they think these changes should get them to around a 50-50 mix, and longer term, they believe an 80-20 ratio is realistic.


Alan Geary, Senior Director, Channels and Alliances for Docker

San Francisco-based container provider Docker has made some significant changes to both their channel program and their go-to-market model. Prompted by demand for their Docker Datacenter Subscriptions, Docker has reworked its partner program, adding tiers and accreditations, and increasing partner enablement. They have also signed their first distribution deal for the North American commercial market, an exclusive one with SYNNEX.

“This is the result of a demand for enterprise subscriptions, and the result of demand from partnerships we’ve had with companies like HPE,” said Alan Geary, Senior Director, Channels and Alliances for Docker.

Docker did have a partner program previously, but it was a bare bones effort in comparison.

“It was fairly simplistic,” Geary said. “It had a way to engage, and we authorized partners to be consultants, training partners or resellers. However, we were reserved on reselling subscriptions because we knew we were moving into distribution, which of course is part of our announcement.”

Most of Docker’s business is still sold direct – not a huge surprise considering the company is only three years old and its initial customer appeal was strongest among larger enterprises. The channel is growing, however.

“Today, the channel is relatively immature – around 30 per cent of our business,” Geary said. “It is moving to more of a 50-50 mix, and it could move beyond that, to somewhere like VMware’s 80-20 partner-direct ratio.”

Geary, who spent years at VMware, noted that at one point when he was there VMware had 450 partners, and now has about 15,000.

“We will expand our channel as well to meet global need,” he said. Our TAM [Total Addressable Market] is larger than VMware. Every customer eventually is a potential target for Docker. We have 80 plus partners in the program now, and I envision we will get to 200-300 in the next 12-18 months. We are seeing adoption in large enterprise, upper midmarket, midmarket and specific verticals, which could go down even to small business. As a three year old company with limited resources, we need to address this by expanding the number of people delivering the message.”

The new program has four classifications of partners – resellers (DVARs), consulting partners, global system integrators and federal system integrators – and two tiers, Professional and Premier. While it is not perhaps immediately obvious, Premier is the higher tier. All the categories can have Premier partners. The tier is not defined by a type of partner, but by their commitment to Docker, particularly their investment in training.

“Professional partners will have expertise in a Docker practise,” Geary said. “The higher touch level of engagements will be, however, be at the Premier level. “We have regional consulting companies with Premier status as well as large Sis. We also have global SIs who are Professional tier because they haven’t invested in us with the same level of people. You need a higher level of training and trained people at Premier.”

To this end, Docker is announcing new accreditations to demonstrate these skills, in Sales, Presales, Technical and Consulting. Passing exams are necessary, as well as completing the training.

“These accreditations are all entirely new,” Geary said.

“For D-VAR resellers, the main thing is the training,” he added. “At the Professional level, they require two sales professionals trained on Docker Data Center, and the Container-as-a-Service solution.” They will be able to sell Docker Datacenter Subscriptions in North America.

Docker also made changes to its partner portal, which had been on the static side previously.

“We added customer case studies, and a lot of enablement deliverables that are specifically geared to support the stages of the sales cycle of partners,” Geary said.

Tiering has also been added to the deal registration margin benefits.

“This is really targeted at the DVARs who resell the subscriptions,” Geary said. “Professional partners get an extra 5 points through distribution for a registered deal, on top of the base discount. Premier partners get an additional 15 points.”

The expanded partner program coincides with Docker’s first move into distribution in North America and EMEA in the commercial sector. Docker previously had distribution for the U.S. federal market, with SYNNEX, Immix and Vizuri. SYNNEX will now have exclusive distribution rights for the U.S. and Canada.

“We chose SYNNEX because we know them well,” Geary said. “Their management and our management are familiar with each other. They also have strong capabilities in North America.”

Geary said Docker chose an exclusive deal because they believe that as a small company, they have to focus to be successful.

“Focusing on one distributor will let us work very well with that distributor,” he said. “We are enabling their experts to provide DVARS with the technical abilities they need. They will also recruit partners with complementary technologies.”

HPE is a strong partner of Docker, and their products are available through them and their channel as well.

Expanding in Canada is a priority, Geary said.

“In Canada, we have seen interest from the top Sis and have also signed partners there like Scalar,” he said. “Given our success in the federal business in the US, we expect that will follow in Canada shortly. We have been covering Canada out of the US, and need to expand our partner base there.”