Nutanix raises channel program into the cloud with new charter, tiering, programs and certifications

Nutanix, which sells entirely through channel partners, is moving away from emphasizing pure volume of sales to allow them to reward smaller partners with deep Nutanix practices.

Rodney Foreman, Nutanix’s Vice President of Global Channel Sales

At the beginning of this year, Nutanix appointed longtime IBMer Rodney Foreman as the company’s Vice President of Global Channel Sales. Foreman, who had spent the last year and a half running Informatica’s channel business, took over at Nutanix with a conscious mandate of driving innovation. On Monday, Foreman presided over the first Partner Xchange at Nutanix’s .NEXT event here, where he introduced several measures designed to deliver on this mandate. The key ones were the introduction of a new channel charter, of which Foreman was particularly proud, a new partner tiering system designed to make enable partners to compete effectively in a multi-cloud universe, and a new system of partner certifications.

The inaugural Partner Xchange event more than doubled partner attendance at .NEXT from last year.

“We had 1200 seats for the channel keynote and we wound up with standing room only and having to turn people away,” Foreman told ChannelBuzz. “I thanked them for their performance – we wouldn’t be near where we are without them in terms of our momentum and our market share. Then we talked about some of our results in terms of the large number of certifications they had obtained, the size of the growing pipeline that they generate, and the majority of net-new logos that make the pipeline up.”

The new Channel Charter – Power to the Partner – has four central components: Providing flexible support through the sales and customer lifecycles; supporting transformative HCI, multi-cloud and  midmarket opportunities, maximizing profitability and revenue, and providing a delightful selling, training and marketing experience. Foreman stressed that the new charter reflects a fundamental updating of the Nutanix channel program, from its foundational days in HCI.

“It was time for us to evolve and mature as a channel program,” Foreman said. “I’m really excited about this new channel charter. It has been designed to empower partners to be better able to compete and sell in this multi-cloud universe. It shows that we have been listening, and that we now have a channel program that is consistent, competitive, and provides partners with the tools they need to be successful.”

The new changes follow up an important set of program extensions Nutanix made in March, where they introduced their first-ever New Customer Acquisition Rebate Program, which gives partners up to a five per cent rebate for winning net-new customers for Nutanix, along with a top partner rebate and a new rebate program that provides partners who sell qualified Dell EMC XC Core nodes with Nutanix software a rebate of up to $3,000 per node.

“Now we are further enabling partners to sell with less friction and give them the tools they need to be more successful, and so we have announced Xpand, which is a set of marketing tools and assets they can use to build their pipeline,” Foreman said.

Foreman said that Xpand is different from the standard ‘campaigns in a box’ that many vendors provide.

“It’s unique because its not just pre-set campaigns, but ones that can be tailored to their business, and to the targeted customers who they are looking to acquire,” Foreman said. “Something like this is entirely new for us, and we are working with a couple of third-party marketing intelligence and management-side companies on it.”

While the days of channel partners being largely ignorant of the whys and wherefore’s of marketing have pretty much been consigned to the dustbin of history, Foreman said that many of their partners still don’t have all the resources they might like to address marketing, so that such a program will have considerable value.

“Many partners still have people who wear multiple hats as far as marketing is concerned, and this kind of partner will really benefit from this,” he stated.

Next-generation lead sharing, through a Nutanix Lead Sharing App, was not quite ready for .NEXT, but it is coming soon.

A new tiering system was also announced which will fundamentally change the way Nutanix classifies and rewards programs, with the core ideas being to update a stale tiering system, and move to one where revenues would only be part of a formula that would reflect a partner’s overall investment in Nutanix.

Under the new system, the entry level tier is for Pioneers, who are still early in the adoption of the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud, and who close deals quarterly. Above that, the Scalers close multiple deals per quarter, while developing solutions around Nutanix. Masters level partners – the top tier – deliver the full Nutanix portfolio and have successful service implementations monthly.

“The new tiering makes it more about partner investment in Nutanix,” Foreman said. “We had tiers before, but because we were all growing so fast they become irrelevant. Everyone was in the highest tier! These tiers are more relevant and not as revenue-focused. It reflects more the degree of partner investment in skills, new customers, and volume of opportunity. It is also related to the size of the company. We wanted to make it different from anyone else, so that it won’t just be the CDWs who will make the top tier, but strong Nutanix partners relative to their size.”

Toronto-based Zycom Technology fits that profile – a company that is not huge, but which has been deeply focused on Nutanix for years, and whose practice brings in close to half of Zycom’s total business.

“We are pleased with the changes, which reflect our investment in Nutanix,” said Terry Buchanan, Vice President Technology & General Manager at Zycom, whose fifth straight win as Nutanix’s Canadian partner of the year was announced at the event.

Nutanix also announced new professional certifications at .NEXT.

“As we introduce new products like Calm we also need to evolve our certifications,” Foreman said. “The certifications for the new products are kicking in now, and partners were allowed to get new certifications for them at this this conference. 35 of them got our top level of certification, where the partner has to present their skills to a panel. That’s intense.”

When he assumed his role at Nutanix, Foreman talked about his intent to overhaul the company’s sales processes over the next several years, and he said some of this work has already been done.

“I see a lot more account planning with partners taking place, a lot more new customers bring brought in, and more partners selling autonomously,” he said. “On the sales side, we are now tracking to the partner rep level which individual reps are selling successfully, and are making sure we are providing the right level of support for individual reps. We don’t just look at the partner holistically. We are able to go to individual sales reps and give them the help they need. Companies in our industry tend not to be that granular.”

Nutanix has had a legacy issue where Nutanix’s own people have had to do many implementations for partners, who are fully compensated, but where the resources used cut into Nutanix’s own bottom line. Foreman said that progress has been made on that front, with a much higher level of partner enablement.

“On the technical side, 90 per cent of our implementations are done by partners today,” Foreman said. “ I also just announced a new services starter pack, and the ability to sell our services through a SKU. Our services are both partner-led and Nutanix-led and there is good synergy. No one feels threatened by the services.”

Foreman said that the new products Nutanix announced at .NEXT – Flow, Beam, and Era – has created a great deal of excitement among partners.

“They now have a much deeper set of tools to help them win,” he said. “A product like Beam can let the partner tell the customer where workloads can best run from a financial perspective which lets them bring much more value.”