Open-source-as-a-service provider Platform9 launches channel program

The new Platform9 channel program comes in the midst of growing demand for the new Managed Kubernetes offering, and other funding and growth achievements.

George Vargas, Platform9’s channel sales director

Sunnyvale CA-based Platform9 is announcing a new inaugural channel program. The idea at this stage is to strengthen the support that they can provide to their partner base, making it successful and keeping the channel relatively select at this stage of the company’s growth.

Platform9 is still in the early startup stage, but has already modified its business model slightly to capitalize on changing trends in the market. While they came out of the gate as a SaaS OpenStack deployment service, they have moved beyond that in the IT infrastructure market, introducing Managed Kubernetes earlier this year.

“In addition to the SaaS version of OpenStack, we are now also offering Kubernetes as a managed service as well,” said George Vargas, Platform9’s channel sales director. “We are seeing a lot of interest around Kubernetes because containers are pretty hot right now. Our technology makes it really easy to deploy, manage and scale up.”

Vargas said that while there are lot of players in the OpenStack delivery space, Platform9’s specific value proposition is highly differentiated.

“There are other players who deliver OpenStack, but they deliver it as an on-prem solution,” he said. “We deliver it as a managed service model, and we can have someone up and running in 20 minutes. That’s very unique. All the upgrades and alerts are all built into the platform.”

Vargas acknowledged that while the type of managed services they offer are still very much bleeding edge stuff, there are enough leading-edge customers to make a market at this stage. They have over sixty customers today.

“We are still early over here and the space is nascent, but we are seeing traction early in cloud-forward companies,” he said. “At this stage, most of these are larger enterprises, and where technology isn’t their primary focus. Oil and gas, financial services and manufacturing are providing key customers.” Because these kinds of companies aren’t familiar at all with technologies like Kubernetes, Platform 9’s ability to simplify the migration and management process for them is of significant value.

At the very start, Platform9 sold direct, making sure that the technology was fully baked and was working.

“Bring in a partner too early, and if something goes wrong, it’s hard to come back from that,” Vargas said. “Now that we have established the technology, we are bringing in the partners, and the results so far have been great. I’m blown away at how much success we have had this far.”

The early partner base runs the whole gamut of profiles, from DMRs, national VARs, and traditional data centre VARs down to boutique partners.

“The common theme is that they see their customers gravitating towards the cloud, but that not everyone wants to go fully public cloud,” Vargas said. “Partners need help here and want guidance, and we give them an arrow in their quiver to be the trusted advisor to their customer.”

The immediate goal is not to recruit a large flock of partners, but build up a select channel and make it successful.

“We are looking to keep it somewhat intimate for the first 12-18 months,” Vargas stated. “We want to make sure our partners are successful. We don’t want to blast the program out and get hundreds of partners. We want to get them trained up properly, get them properly certified, and make sure they become believers in what Platform9 is doing.”

Given this emphasis, the program’s focus – not surprisingly – is on focused training and certification. Support is also a top priority, with Platform9’s internal sales consulting sales consultants available to work closely with partners. Vargas said that Platform9 provides very good margins to partners – especially when the partner brings in the deal. He said that Platform9 also has a good deal registration program and spiff program.

“We expect that partners will know the data centre well, and many are getting practice directors for cloud, but we also expect that it will be somewhat new for the salespeople,” Vargas indicated. “We make sure that they know the right questions to ask customers around containers, and Kubernetes. We don’t expect them to be experts at this stage. We are the experts. We will help them to close the deal.”

Vargas indicated that the early backlash from the channel against the SaaS model has largely faded, in part because of companies like Salesforce.

“The channel has grown accustomed to a SaaS model because it just makes sense,” he said. “Kubernetes and OpenStack are complicated. The SaaS model makes it very easy to consume what we are doing.”

Vargas also made reference to the company’s other signs of momentum. They completed their C Series funding round earlier this year, bolstered vendor alliances with companies like NetApp and Nutanix, and have introduced collaborations with channel partners Groupware Technologies, WWT, Insight, Technologent Fusionstorm and HPM Networks.

“We are really excited about the prospects going forward,” Vargas said.