Nutanix’s former global channel chief is now CRO at SaaS-based data protection startup Cobalt Iron, and thinks the company and its all-channel model can do in enterprise data protection what Nutanix did in HCI.
Last week, Cobalt Iron announced the appointment of Rodney Foreman to the newly created position of Chief Revenue Officer. Foreman talked with ChannelBuzz about why he thinks that Cobalt Iron’s differentiated data protection solution has the capability to take a market by storm even though the space is crowded with competitors, and how his own philosophy of sales and channel management can drive that growth.
Foreman spent much of his career – sixteen years – at IBM, followed by a year and a half running Informatica’s channel business. He is likely best known in the channel, however, for the year and a half that he spent as Nutanix’s head of global channel sales, because of his implementation there of an innovative partner program. It was designed to enable partners to compete effectively in a multi-cloud universe, and to reward partners who might not be huge, but who were deeply committed to the entire breadth of the company’s solution set.
Cobalt Iron provides enterprise data protection, competing against companies like Dell, Commvault, Cohesity and Rubrik. Cobalt Iron is SaaS-based, however, which Foreman sees as a major differentiator in their market.
“Other enterprise grade solutions don’t provide the SaaS capability,” Foreman said. “That’s what I feel is attractive to partners. We are unique in our market in how we charge for the solution, and providing that recurring revenue and multi-tenanted capabilities for MSPs.”
The company was born out of a solution provider’s experience. Richard Spurlock, Cobalt Iron’s founder and CEO, started the company to address issues that he learned as a solution provider, at Lawrence Kansas-based Starfire Technologies.
“Richard would solve problems that enterprise companies were having with their backup solutions,” Foreman said. “Companies were having poor success with their backup, managing a complex tangle of backup solutions. He would clean that up and provide a finely tuned solution. He finally decided to create a backup solution of his own to provide a way to solve these problems.”
In addition, to the SaaS model, which is a differentiation in enterprise data protection, Foreman said that Cobalt Iron’s AI and automation are different from other players in the space.
“We have a clear strategy around the intelligence of automation,” he said. “We have a high degree of intelligence and automation built into the solution, so that we can use the metadata and other information to make the system more efficient, and eliminate a lot of the manual intervention needed in data protection. Most data protection solutions don’t leverage the feedback that the system gives as it performs backups. There are others who do this, but they don’t do it at our level. The trick is doing something with that intelligence and taking multiple pieces of data and then acting – not just taking one data point and then acting. Our multitenant and billing capabilities in our GUI really allows for an MSP to really get granular with how they manage their data protection environment.”
Other differentiating factors that Foreman thinks resonate with customers and partners include supporting all of the top five hyperscale clouds: AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, AliBaba and IBM.
“We are also fully hybrid, and we build all the security in and don’t charge extra for it. As well, we are very diverse in the systems applications and platforms we support. We are very good with SAP HANA.”
Cobalt Iron is an enterprise grade product, but they scale more broadly in the market than that.
“We also have a number of midmarket customers, mainly in the medical and health care industry,” Foreman said. “Many are customers with many different locations – many remote sites. We perform very well in that environment.”
Cobalt Iron has a 100 per cent channel model.
“We have some very mature partners like Mainline and Datatrend, and we have newer partners who are growing quickly,” Foreman said. “My plan is to recruit some of the top partners in the industry that I have had relations with in the past.”
Foreman will be guided by the same channel philosophy he had at Nutanix.
“I’m only interested in signing the right partners, who want to invest in Cobalt Iron,” he said. “I’m not focused on signing thousands of partners, just the right ones, among VARs, MSPs, and GSIs. That’s the same thing that we did at Nutanix, and it proved to be a very good model. We were able to grow some key partners like Sirius by putting more focus on a smaller amount of some of the top partners in the market.”
Designing a new channel program is a top priority.
“There is a channel program today, but it is very flexible,” he said. “We are ready to have a mature program. That’s one of my missions as Chief Revenue Officer, to introduce that program and scale the business.”
Foreman is proud of the Power to the Partner channel program he implemented at Nutanix, and while the Cobalt Iron business model is different from Nutanix, he said he intends to bring a high level of innovation to the Cobalt Iron program as well.
“This one will raise the bar yet again that aligns with how partners are going to market today,” he said.
“We will announce a new program before the end of the year, which will empower partners to be successful in the market, and make sure that partners in a recurring revenue model are rewarded for renewals,” Foreman stated. “What’s key is that companies today really want that recurring revenue. Both Main Street and Wall Street are interested in this. We are focused on making sure we have long-term relationships with partners to provide revenue and profit over the long term.”