NetApp’s new Partner Sphere Partner Program  goes live

Last fall NetApp announced its new program, which they term an extension of the previous Unified Partner Program rather than a major overhaul of it, and after giving partners a suitable time to prepare for the new program, it is now operational.

Jenni Flinders, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization at NetApp

Today, storage and data management vendor NetApp is announcing the formal launch of its Partner Sphere Partner Program, which was first previewed for partners last fall.

“The Partner Sphere Program is a modernization of the Unified Partner Program,” said Jenni Flinders, SVP, Worldwide Partner Organization at NetApp. “If you look at how our offerings have expanded in the last couple of years, where we are meeting the ability to handle both cloud and hybrid business models, there’s a home for you here. A lot of thought went into that. We have been working with partners very closely, with the program’s goal being to remove barriers, including improved training and access to that training.”

So why change a program brand that had been around for a long time if the program was not undergoing a major revamp?

“Because the new name is more reflective of what we have been doing,” Flinders said. “It’s truly a global, single system.”

While the structure of the program itself has been simplified significantly, the competency framework has been expanded.

“We have updated the tiering, and now have three tiers – Approved, Preferred and Prestige,” Flinders said. “The big change in the program was moving from product specializations to solution competences, and we used to have a four-tier program that reflected those specializations. “You don’t need that many for a competency-based program, and partners wanted things to be easier.”

The new competencies facilitate different engagement models.

“We want to recognize partners with higher capabilities across multiple points with NetApp,” Flinders indicated. “We want to be very close with partners who invest closely with us, and invest where it matters for them.

“There are partners who have transitioned faster than others,” she continued. “We have Born in the Cloud partners, and that’s all they do. They work closer with the hyperscalers. And there are others who have worked hard to add in to their original portfolio, but who are still a work in progress. We want to have a home for hybrid partners and for Born in the Cloud.”

Additionally, partners will have opportunities to produce co-innovation and joint offerings with shared go-to-market strategies.

“The services part is not new, but there is an increased focus on professional and support services, which has been more formalized in the program,” Flinders said, “Partners want the services capabilities.”

The 11 services tracks fall into three categories. Integration Services Certified tracks include Cloud, EF-Series, FlexPod, Hybrid Cloud, ONTAP, ONTAP SAN, and StorageGRID. There are two Optimization Services Certified tracks, for NetApp MetroCluster and ONTAP Data Protection. There are also two Lifecycle Services Certified tracks, for Hybrid Cloud, and for NetApp Keystone.

The competences fall into two buckets. Cloud competencies include three separate Cloud Data Moderization competencies, on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud respectively. Cloud Optimization with Spot by NetApp and Application Optimization with SAP are the other two. The other competencies are hybrid cloud. They are: Hybrid Multicloud with VMware; FlexPod Converged Infrastructure with Cisco; Storage as-a-Service with NetApp Keystone; NetApp Technologies for Security and Ransomware Protection; Data Protection with Commvault; Data Protection with Rubrik; Monitoring and Optimization with NetApp Cloud Insights; Application Optimization with SAP; Application Optimization with Oracle; XaaS built with ONTAP and XaaS built with StorageGRID.

Since the new program was announced last fall, NetApp partners have completed over 1600 Solution Competencies and 1100 Services Certified tracks for tier advancement.

“We are delighted with those numbers,” Flinders stressed. “Partners have embraced this. Partner Sphere will be around for many years, and will adapt to both partner needs and customer needs.

“We are also launching a new Partner Hub, which is not just  place where you go to sign up for information,” Flinders added. “It enables joint account collaboration and is super-dynamic.”

Flinders said no surprises have been introduced which were not telegraphed last fall.

“Last year we announced it was coming, and there have been no surprises,” she said. “We’ve been collaborating frequently with partner advisory councils, and this has been such a tight collaboration, that we didn’t have to add anything that we originally left out.”