Violin Systems launches new partner program to support differentiated solution, 100 per cent channel focus

Violin’s new partner program formally brings together the old Violin channel with the one newly acquired from X-IO. It is intended to do a lot more than that, however.

Rick Ruskin, Violin’s SVP of WorldWide Operations

Today, Violin Systems is formally announcing their new “Partner First” channel program. While the program is designed to bring together legacy Violin’s partners with partners of X-IO, who Violin acquired last year, it is designed to do rather more than that. The company is looking to use the program to grow the number of partners who want to add a differentiated performance-oriented solution. They are also stressing that unlike both legacy Violin and legacy X-IO, the new Violin is committed to a 100 per cent channel strategy, and the partner program is designed to execute on that.

Violin comes to market with a high-performance solution that is very low in latency, while also offering a full range of services. Unlike the legacy company, Violin Memory, which could never scale its market enough to build on its first-mover advantages, and wound up bankrupt as a result, Violin Systems is looking to have a much broader go-to-market strategy. One way of doing this, with the X-IO acquisition, expands their total addressable market, into the midmarket space. Another is the 100 per cent channel strategy.

“Our CEO, Mark Lewis, has been clear that we will keep our focus in terms of low latency,” said Rick Ruskin, Violin’s SVP of WorldWide Operations. “There are lots of traditional storage companies with good flash and data services. There are lots of others who are very fast,  but who don’t have a lot of services. We can outperform traditional storage companies by 3-4x and have services that startups lack.”

Bringing the two companies together has delivered on creating synergies,

“This is a tremendous period of time for us,” Ruskin said. “When you do acquisitions like this, 1 plus 1=3 is the goal, and this was 1 +1=5. The products had very little overlap. Violin was high end, X-IO was midrange. Putting the two companies together gave us answers, There was zero attrition. No one was asked to leave, and no one left. We formed one strong team and covered our flank.”

While a  natural inference would be that partners from the Violin side would have an easier time selling X-IO to their install base than the reverse, Ruskin said that in fact, there has been about a 50-50 balance in the cross- selling.

“X-IO customers with database applications have had an interest in Violin,” he stated. “One person closed four new logos this way in the first 60 days.”

The roadmap is to merge the best of the technologies.

“We will keep both streams, but by the end of this year will have the best of both together, at a lower price,” Ruskin stated. He indicated that November 2019 was the target data for this convergence of the technologies.

The purpose of the new program isn’t simply to integrate support for the two formerly separate product lines. A clear message is also being sent to Violin’s partners about the new company’s go-to-market strategy.

Tim Cullen, Vice President of Channel Sales at Violin Systems

“We are pushing that Violin is committed to a 100 per cent channel focus,” said Tim Cullen, Vice President of Channel Sales at Violin Systems. Cullen’s role is a new one at Violin, which itself reflects that focus. He reports to Ruskin, and was previously X-IO’s head of global field operations.  “Legacy Violin and legacy X-IO were not 100 per cent channel-focused. Half the deals came in direct. From our senior management team down, we recognize that we can’t do that if we are to scale like we want to scale.”

“Before, it was considered optional to work with the channel,” Ruskin said. “Now it’s not. We are committed to 100 per cent channel engagement.”

The focus is also building out a channel with a more limited number of strong partners who aren’t tripping over each other.

“We are building a quality program with quality partners,” Cullen said. “We aren’t looking to get big numbers, like 500-1000 partners. I want a handful of quality partners in every geo. I don’t want 35 people trying to register one deal in St. Louis.”

There is still plenty of room for good partners, however.

“Technically we have a couple hundred partners signed up, but in reality, it is about 40 partners active worldwide, who register deals and do training,” Cullen noted. “We are hoping to double that over the next 12 months.

Cullen indicated that they expect their channel will be a fix of nationally and regionally-focused partners, with the common thread being a high skill level.

“Some will be very regional, and others will cover most of the country,” he said.

The messaging around the program’s contents is also designed to be straight-forward, Cullen said.

“Margin is king,” he said. “While we have a product that is very high performance, with consistent low latency, and an enterprise feature set, partners can also secure a significant guaranteed margin. The deal registration process for this is also simple to use.” Resellers will also be able to deliver certified Violin services directly to their customers.

Cullen also emphasized that Violin is not expecting partners to position them for general purpose storage arrays, just for use cases where extreme performance is required. In that sense, he said that they are an ideal complementary solution for partners.

“We aren’t telling partners that they can’t sell Pure Storage any more,” he said “We are complementary to what they are already selling.”

That’s a recognition of the fact that Violin needs to recognize partners’ relationships with other vendors, although they do hope that their use cases will gradually expand.

“We don’t want to disrupt,” Ruskin said. “We need to show that we are unique, and can open more opportunities for partners. The benchmarking numbers are our way in. We believe that if the economics are fairly close, they will use us for more use cases as they see our capabilities. It really is a ‘land and expand’ model.”

Cullen also emphasized the importance of joint opportunity development, marketing together with partners to create leads. This is particularly the case for partners in the top, Premier, tier of the program. The program has three tiers: Registered, Authorized and Premier. All levels have access to online training and certification materials, deal registration forms and customer facing collateral through a dedicated partner portal.

“The Premier Tier also has MDF funds, with a lot being prefunded to jump-start a lot of lead generation,” Cullen said. Legacy X-IO hadn’t earmarked a lot of funds to do joint lead development. It was all very ad hoc. Here, we are pushing hard to jointly develop opportunities