Lightbits enhances channel-centric model with new partner program

While the previous Go Purple partner program was more of a bare-bones effort, the new Luminary Partner Program is better attuned to the company’s Cloud First strategy, and more complete, although formal certifications won’t arrive till next year.

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

Lightbits, the inventor of the NVMe over TCP protocol, which makes data platform storage solutions for any cloud, has announced that they have replaced their original partner program with a new one, the Lightbits Luminary Program. Whereas the original GoPurple program was more of a lightweight effort to put something in place following the initial addition of partners to the Go-to-Market model, the Lightbits Luminary Partner Program is more rigorous, and is designed as the fulcrum in the transition to a channel-first organization.

“We have an innovative high-performance data platform, said Charla Bunton-Johnson, Vice President of Global Alliances and Channel at Lightbits, a channel veteran who joined the company last year as the first person in that senior channel role. “Its software defined API-driven architecture increases ROI with high performance, and reduces TCO with disaggegation, and works with commodity hardware. We recently switched to a Cloud First strategy, so now we are like a SAN in the cloud, with resources unified and managed like a SAN, and portability between public and private clouds. We are now fully on AWS with Azure  available now as a BYOL offering, with a managed service  coming soon.”

The channel is relatively new for Lightbits, only coming in three years ago.

When Bunton-Johnson was brought in last year, about half of the business went through some type of partner. Her task was to increase that by expediting the transition to a channel first strategy. The channel is not large in number, but it does cover a wide variety of partner types, including alliance partners, public cloud hyperscalers and OEMs, as well as cloud migration, and reseller channel partners.

“We are working with more referral type of partners – both large and small – as well as regular solution providers,” Bunton-Johnson said. “We are also trying to work with a couple big GSIs. We haven’t signed any yet, but we are finding ways in which we can work with them. We want quality partners where we can align with their needs, not quantity. We do not even have 100 partners globally. But we do have partners leading in deals.”

Improving on the Go Purple partner program was a key part of further building out a strong partner ecosystem.

“We were really just starting off there,” Bunton-Johnson said. “The original program was very light, and lacking the modern infrastructure that partners expect today. There was no portal. Deal registration was done, but without a portal to execute it, it all had to be done manually.” Training and tools were also not up to the necessary level.

The Lightbits Luminary Partner Program has three tiers. Leader is the entry level. Expert partners have sales under two million dollars, and Genius is the top tier, which over two million in sales being the desired goals.

“We are very flexible with our targets,” Bunton-Johnson said. “Certifications will also be a part of that, and we will get it fully implemented, but not this year. It will require certification of two sales people and two sales engineers at the Genius level one sales person and one SE at Expert, and one Sales person at the Leader level.”

“As a software provider, we don’t have the same costs as a hardware company,” said Kam Eshghi, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Lightbits. “What we are looking for is true partners who can help us with our cloud-first strategy, For us, it’s about finding this right match. That’s the issue.”

The new program has better margins than the old because of the software subscription sales model.

“We don’t work with distribution, so our margins are much more than theirs – double or more,” Bunton-Johnson said.

Co-Marketing support  has also been strengthened, with new resources to work with partners on lead-generation through MDF, joint marketing campaigns, turnkey campaigns and events that raise awareness and drive demand for cloud storage solutions.

“There was a little of this in the old program on an ‘as needed’ basis,” Bunton-Johnson indicated.

Lightbits Luminary partners also have access to Lightbits’ technical support team across the globe.

“While next year we will build out a more robust accreditation program, we offer technical deep drive training for partners today,” Bunton-Johnson said.

“This program really outlines our value better than the old one,” said Janet Lafleur, Director of Product Marketing at Lightbits. “We have seen an uptick in partners with a cloud competency.”