Lightbits brings in Charla Bunton-Johnson to drive channel-first strategy for software-defined NVMe pioneer

The channel is relatively new in Lightbits’ strategy, but the new channel leader was brought in to scale growth in accordance with what has become a channel-first strategy.

Charla Bunton-Johnson, Vice President of Global Alliances and Channel, Lightbits

Lightbits, whose sales offices are in San Jose and whose engineering is based in Israel, has announced the appointment of Charla Bunton-Johnson as their new Vice President of Global Alliances and Channel. Bunton-Johnson previously worked in channel and OEM-facing roles at Telos, WekaIO, NVIDIA, Imperva,  Symantec, SanDisk and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

Bunton-Johnson is the first executive to hold a VP of alliances and channels role at Lightbits, which reflects the importance the company is now placing on expanding those routes to market.

“The position is brand new,’ Bunton-Johnson said. “I report to Kam Eshghi, Lightbits’ Chief Strategy Officer, who handled these responsibilities before. I was brought in because we really wanted to put more focus on partners. We have some great alliance partners in place, including Intel and VMware, and wanted to build out our partner ecosystem with a dedicated person in place to oversee it, as the ecosystem grows.”

Lightbits markets itself as the first and so far only software-defined NVMe data platform for any cloud. Today they work with private clouds and in on-prem environments, with the public cloud on the horizon.

“We invented NVMe over TCP,” Bunton said. “We do not sell hardware, and work with just about any x86 server. We compete with other block storage companies like Pure, but we are the only block NVMe one.”

“The public cloud is coming this year,” said Carol Platz, VP of Global Marketing at Lightbits. “We also do a lot of implementations into the edge. On prem, we work like Amazon EBS, bringing hyperscale-like performance. Coupled with intelligent flash management, this helps CSPs’ ability to manage their bottom line.”

Their focus here is on Tier 2 and Tier 3 CSPs, but Lightbits also has many large enterprise customers.

“We have lot of wins in areas like financial services and telco,” Platz noted.

Both the strategic partners and the reseller channel are relatively new parts of the ecosystem

“The Intel announcement was 2020, and VMware and Micron were both last year,” Platz said. Just last week, Lightbits announced the availability of the Lightbits Cloud Data Platform on the VMware Marketplace. They are also looking at AWS and Intel instances on Graviton for CSPs.

“The reseller channel came in a couple of years ago,” Bunton-Johnson said. “We are really just starting off there. We use the channels of our strategic partners as well as our own, but in both cases, it is targeted. About 50% of our business goes through partners today, but since I came on it has been a channel-first strategy.”

National resellers are the most attractive type of partners to Lightbits. WWT is one, and they are looking at some others.

“No other national reseller has been signed yet,” Bunton-Johnson indicated. “In addition, we are looking at regional partners that are hunters.”

Bunton-Johnson inherits an existing global channel program, the GoPurple program. Bunton-Johnson said that GoPurple really needs to be expanded much more significantly to become a world-class channel program

“The infrastructure and platforms need to be built out further,” she said. “For instance, we don’t have a portal. We do deal registration, but we don’t have a portal to execute it, so it has to be done manually. Today all the training is in the field for the same reason, including hands-on labs, and we do a lot of webinars as well. We need to build out this kind of table stakes and infrastructure.”

“We definitely need to make training and tools more available, and make deal registration easier,” Platz added.

Looking ahead, Bunton-Johnson said the plans for the rest of the year include increasing the Go-to-Market velocity of both strategic partners and reseller partners.

“We really want to expand a deep Go-To-Market with Intel, so we are not just a point product around which partners can add a wraparound service,” she indicated.

“We have a lot of customer implementations now, but we want to scale that and get that kind of hockey stick effect,” Platz said. “We only have half a dozen sales people globally, and you can’t scale to the extent we want with that. You need partners to do it.”

“We are also looking for a few good partners in Canada,” Bunton-Johnson indicated.