ATADATA gets systematic about channel with new ATAconnect partner program

ATADATA has always sold through the channel, but it has mainly been on an ad hoc basis. Now they are formalizing things with their first channel program, and are looking to add partners who are a good fit.

Ian Masters, Senior Vice President of Global Channels at ATADATA

Atlanta-based cloud migration provider ATADATA has always has a channel-focused go-to-market strategy since their inception in 2011. Until now however, the company’s relationship with their partners has been pretty ad hoc. Accordingly, they recently hired their first formal channel leader, who has put together the company’s first channel program. Its goals are to make channel relationships more systematic, deepen the relationship with existing partners, and significantly expand the partner base.

Ian Masters, Senior Vice President of Global Channels at ATADATA, came on board late last year, following Carbonite’s acquisition of Double-Take, where he had worked for many years.

“They brought me on board specifically to expand the channel and structure the channel, and you need a formalized program to that,” Masters said.

Masters looked to bring the more structured approach Double-Take took to its channel to ATADATA, to better leverage its differentiating technology.

“ATADATA is a very technologically-led business,” he said. “The founder is an ex-IBM migration engineer, who wanted to build something that could take a customer from where they are and migrate to ANY private or public cloud.” To that end, ATADATA maintains alliances with all the big cloud providers, including AWS, Microsoft, Google and Oracle. They are also the only automation platform for onboarding live SAP and HANA to public clouds as validated by AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Virtustream.

“We have two separate products for discovery and migration, but they integrate, and cover physical, virtual and cloud environments,” he said. Other products in their portfolio include transformation tools for Linux kernels, as well as ATAmirror, a module which simplifies migration cutovers, and ATAguard, a recently-launched automated DR solution which is focused on AWS out of the gate, their only product that supports a single cloud. They also have a managed workload mobility platform, Atasphere, which brings all the modules together and enables deeper integration between them.

“We have been working through the channel up to now, mainly global SIs, but it has really been on a project-to-project basis,” Masters noted. “There hasn’t been what I would call a real channel strategy up till now. When a project was done, we would wait for the next project to be brought to us.”

Masters said that the first thing he did as part of the new program was standardize a price book. The program has a flat pricing structure, with agreed-upon discounts, volume pricing, and a framework for extending contracts with additional, continued optimization options after the initial migration is completed.

“Before it had all been custom pricing,” he stated. “Now there is a flat and fair playing field.”

The program also brings deal registration to ATADATA for the first time.

“Deal registration is important,” Masters said. “We haven’t had it officially up till now. No one wants to invest in a go-to-market strategy only to have the customer stolen from them near the end. We can’t dictate where a customer buys, but with deal registration, we can influence it.”

Formalized training is another key element in the new program.

“This was ad hoc at best previously, although we could deliver it if asked,” Masters said.  The training has three components: Sales (101), Pre-Sales Technical (201), and Delivery Engineering (301).

“We don’t charge for the training,” Masters said. “It is videos reinforced with live training, which takes place after they have watched the videos.”

Masters acknowledged that it’s a challenge for a vendor that isn’t very large to use their channel program to both broaden the channel  base and provide deep focus on the legacy go-to-market partners, but that is his objective here.

“We needed to do a much better job of managing and enabling partners, both in training and proving more on sales and marketing tools, to have much more strategic relationships with them,” he said. “At the same time, we are actively looking to grow the channel significantly. We don’t want to recruit thousands. We don’t have the bandwidth for that. We do, however, want to bring the right partners on board and enable them fully.”

The strategy leverages both distribution and alliances with the big cloud providers.

“We work with distributors, and we need them especially in remote regions,” Masters said. “We are negotiating with someone in China now, because we want to get into that market. In North America we have Arrow, and are in negotiations with another well-known distributor with a presence in the cloud market. We use distribution primarily for traditional VAR market, as we already have direct relationships with many of the big Global SIs.”

Masters also stressed that ATADATA leverages a lot in its alliances with the large cloud providers.

“We invest a lot of energy into maintaining those, and ensuring we are as part of as many funding projects as we can be, to get credits against future cloud spend,” he said. “It cuts the customer costs, means the partner can earn decent money, and of course helps us too. We also have some relationships with cloud providers which go beyond the alliances. Some also want direct integration with our solutions, especially the smaller ones. And then beyond that, we have relationships with MSPs, who like the ongoing contract opportunity.”