Nebulon launches smartPartner program to better leverage OEM partner channels

Nebulon, which launched a year ago with server-embedded infrastructure software delivered as-a-service that competes against the big HCI players, has designed their program to make it easier for HPE, Lenovo and Supermicro partners to work with them.

Tim Pitcher, Vice President of Sales at Nebulon

Fremont CA-based Nebulon, which came out of stealth a year ago with what they are calling smartInfrastructure, server-embedded infrastructure software delivered as-a-service that sells entirely through channel partners, have announced their first channel program. The Nebulon smartPartner program, which is targeted at the channel partners of the large OEMs who sell Nebulon’s product, is focused around two main incentives, Nebulon smartStart and Nebulon smartRewards.

Nebulon has tweaked the messaging around their product since they first came to market a year ago. At that time, the company, founded by execs with a 3PAR pedigree, were emphasizing providing Cloud-Defined Storage – on-prem, server-based storage managed by the Nebulon cloud.

“As you take your product to market, you learn more about it,” said Tim Pitcher, Vice President of Sales at Nebulon. “What has stood out for us is its correlation with smart devices. We work in the data centre the same way that consumer electronics products like Ring or Nest impact consumer life. The product is dead easy to manage, and really smart.”

The second thing that Nebulon discovered is that they were competing with HCI vendors, notably Nutanix and VMware vSAN.

“Because we look and feel more like HCI, we rebranded the way we talk about the company to emphasize smarter infrastructure everywhere,” Pitcher said. “That leads to talking about a single operating environment, with the same operating model on-prem and in the cloud.”

Nebulon’s Go-to-Market model is based on leveraging the channel relationships of their strategic OEM partners – HPE, Supermicro, and Lenovo.

“We go to market through these OEM channels,” Pitcher said. “We have reseller partners today in the U.S., U.K., South Africa, and the Phillippines. We are already in conversations with a number of SIs where our use cases are interesting to them. These Sis largely see these benefits with us in edge user cases, and these partners are mainly in the U.S. and in Europe.

“We don’t sell to customers direct at all,” Pitcher added. “We were built out on day one exclusively to sell through partners. We can demo very easily in the cloud and if customers want to do a demo we can throw them the key to our cloud or do it on-prem in conjunction with a partner. We are in HPE’s virtual OEM program, and are in Lenovo and Supermicro’s price book. With HPE, we go through Tech Data, which is something HPE brokered for us.”

The Nebulon smartPartner program is designed to align with the OEM channel programs.  One of its two principal components is Nebulon smartRewards, a tiered ‘frequent-seller’ rebate program.

“We have defined our own Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers around Nebulon ON SaaS subscription sales. but things like deal registration revolve around the OEM models,” Pitcher said. “We wanted our tiering to be very simple. Because we work on a transfer price to OEMs, we aren’t in the business of pricing to customers. So we want to give them complete flexibility over the pricing model. We wanted to keep away from setting a street price and having things discounted off that. We take revenue from one thing – our Nebulon cloud control plane. We don’t have support contracts or participate in revenue around hardware, so as hardware prices come down, that’s better for customers and better for us.”

The other main program component is Nebulon smartStart, which provides a rebate on Nebulon Service Processing Units (SPUs) on a partner’s first smartInfrastructure deal. Partners also qualify for additional smartStart incentives when promoted from Silver to Gold, and Gold to Platinum.

“SmartStart incentivizes partners to get going,” Pitcher stated.

“All education is provided, and all material is available to partners,” Pitcher continued. “We have made investments in our partner team, and the entire team is architected to enable partners to be successful with technical and sales and marketing resources.”

Because of Nebulon’s connection with their OEM partner channels, they do not have a portal of their own.

“Our website is effectively a partner portal,” Pitcher said. “They go to their OEMs’ portals for things like deal registration, and over the fullness of time we will appear there ourselves.”