Iventosch looks to move Qumulo from startup to leveraged model with two-pronged channel strategy

Armed with a new channel program, and a new exec to provide more focus on channel strategy, Qumulo looks to both improve the efficiency of its own channel, and the HPE channel that comes through their partnership with HPE.

Leonard Iventosch, Chief Channel Evangelist, Qumulo

Scale-out file storage startup Qumulo believes that it is at an inflexion point where it is poised to significantly grow its business. To that end, they have brought on board channel veteran Leonard Iventosch as Chief Channel Evangelist to work on the company’s channel strategy.

Iventosch became available when Nimble Storage, his most recent employer, was acquired by HPE. While he may still be best known in the channel for his years at NetApp, he also spent significant time at Isilon, then EMC after they acquired Isilon.

“I’ve been fortunate to pick winners so far, and I think this will be one as well,” Iventosch told ChannelBuzz. “As Chief Channel Evangelist, they want me to be the chief channel spokesperson as we move from a startup model to a leveraged model. We have others who are more focused on the day-to-day details, and while I will interface with the field a lot, I will be more focused on strategy.”

Qumulo has gone to market through a 100 per cent channel strategy, but its focus has shifted somewhat with their go-to-market initiatives. Initially, their channel consisted of a network of solution provider partners, and was very much a hit-and-miss affair.

“Like all early stage companies, we got a lot of partners putting their toes in the water,” Iventosch said. “It was very much a case of the 80-20 rule, with a small number of partners providing most of the production.”

In late 2016, the company underwent a significant management change, with the old CEO transitioning to the CTO role, and new leadership coming in who had been together at Isilon in the pre-EMC days. The new team soon pulled off a major coup, joining the HPE Complete program introducing a validated solution for HPE’s high-density Apollo 4200 servers that gave HPE a scale-out NAS offering, and which would be sold by both HPE and its channel.

“This is a major win-win for both Qumulo and HPE,” Iventosch said. “We get access to great partner community and a sales force. They didn’t have a scale-out NAS solution before and now they do.”

While Qumulo is bullish on the potential of the HPE relationship, Iventosch said that it is still something of a wild card.

“I wouldn’t call HPE our primary channel, although they might become that,” he said. “We have won some big enterprise deals with them, and they bring a lot of credibility. It remains to be seen, however, how enthusiastic the HPE sales team and HPE partners will respond to Qumulo.”

Iventosch said that the issue here is just a matter of getting attention.

“HPE and their channel have a lot of products that they sell,” he said. “Gregg Machon now runs the storage channel in Americas for HPE. He gets the value of Qumulo and is helping to train the HPE reseller community, and get them to understand that this is a unique solution. Our messaging to the HPE channel and salespeople is that we are their solution around scale-out NAS. That’s our goal. It’s a big education effort. We expect anywhere from dozens to hundreds of partners through HPE. They may not want to sign an agreement directly with us, and that’s fine.”

Iventosch said that Qumulo also wants to better leverage its own channel. Qumulo has now passed the 100 partner mark in its own channel of partners, independent of HPE. Some of them don’t sell HPE at all.

“We continue to have our independent channel, and we think we have more traction with partners who have chosen to work with Qumulo,” he said.  “We have continued to sign partners independent of the HPE relationship, and this year, the priority won’t be massively increasing their numbers, but getting them trained up, and showing them the margin opportunity. Maybe a handful of these will transact  over the next 6-12 months, and we want to increase that.”

Qumulo does have a plan in place this year to recruit more partners who are likely to be top producers.

“We want to recruit for quality over quantity, and among partners who have the right customers for this type of solution, in areas like media and entertainment and bioresearch,” Iventosch said. “We will reach out to these. I’m working on new initiative to ask each of our territorial reps for the names of 3-4 new key go-to partners, both regional and national partners, they want to work with. We want to identify these as early as we can. We want every rep to have these partners who will learn from these calls with us, and start finding opportunities to sell Qumulo themselves.”

Qumulo sees the HPE relationship as particularly beneficial for them in Europe, where HPE is strong, and Qumulo has not been.

“We just opened in Europe, and are looking to leverage HPE there,” he said. “We will work closely with HPE for some time, although this doesn’t mean that we won’t sign up other vendor partners.”

He stressed though, that nothing is imminent on that front.

“I don’t think there’s anything warm, and certainly there’s nothing close to being finalized at this point,” he said. “Because we are a software company, we are hardware-agnostic – which is why HPE Complete works so well for us. We would certainly entertain other OEM relationships though.”

Qumulo is also developing relationships with the big cloud hyperscalers.

“We have announced a relationship with AWS, and are having conversations with Google and Azure,” Iventosch said. “We have also been talking with ISVs in the health care space. By next year – not in the next couple quarters – we expect to be talking with some of the global integrators, as we gain scale and reach.”

Distribution will eventually be part of attaining that scale and reach, but not yet.

“With distribution, NetApp waited too long, but it is still too early for Qumulo,” Iventosch said. “We will look at distribution when we can’t manage the process ourselves, or need the extended reach, or need their credit lines. I think that is one to two years away.”

Qumulo has just launched its Partner1st Program, which Iventosch said is very simple by the standards of the industry.

“I like our program today,” he said. “It has a very attractive business proposition, with the right approach of 100 per cent channel, the right cultural sales fit, and not building out a big services organization, so that partners can sell services around us. By design, we have not gone out to run co-op and MDF programs. If a partner wants to do an event, we say yes, and then figure out how to fund it,  without doing MDF. We won’t try and make it a lot more complex in the next couple of years.”

In addition to this support from field marketing resources, the program offers deal registration, online sales training, and technical certifications. A self-service partner portal provides access to the training, marketing materials, and sales enablement tools, and provides scorecards, analytics and performance metrics for visibility and reporting.