More partners will have a chance to progress to the top levels of the new NetApp partner program, says EMEA channel exec.

Christine Horton, Contributing Editor

November 28, 2022

4 Min Read
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NetApp is manoeuvring away from its current revenue-based partner program toward one that focuses on partner competencies.

Partner Sphere, which the company announced in October, will go live in May 2023. It will better reflect NetApp’s increasingly diverse partner base, said NetApp’s EMEA channel VP, Kristian Kerr.


NetApp’s Kristian Kerr

“The program is focused on the value and contribution the partner ecosystem provides through the life cycle of a customer engagement,” he explained.

Kerr said the replacement partner program currently focuses on point of sale.

“If you were the biggest partner and you did the most revenue, you got the highest badge.”

But in the new program, he said cloud-only partners, specialist AI consultancies, big infrastructure partners and MSPs can all progress up through the tiers. This is because NetApp will evaluate them on their skills, capabilities and competencies.

“You could be a cloud-only partner that’s new to NetApp, and you can reach the highest tier and benefit from all the associated rewards and incentives; whereas, in the current program, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to access all of that. Because you had to jump through a load of hurdles. So it’s very much about specialized partners with the right capabilities and competencies to deliver value.”

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

Partner Sphere will also focus more on life cycle management and business outcomes, he added.

“It’s about the point of sale, but it’s about customer success management in terms of upsell, cross sell, driving more of our portfolio [and] consumption with that customer through the life cycle of engagement.”

Kerr said there will also be “a heavy play” on services and consumption.

“If you’re a partner that’s focused on delivering as a service, cloud consumption, we will have a competency based on that as well,” said Kerr.

He said NetApp will give partners time to make the transition to the new model. It will also announce more details on the competencies the first week of December.

More Diverse Partner Ecosystem

Kerr was speaking at the NetApp Partner Academy in London Nov. 23. The theme of the event was the hybrid multicloud. Historically an on-premises vendor, NetApp has been building its cloud portfolio in recent years through acquisitions, like that of CloudCheckr.

“We’ve been extremely successful through the course of the pandemic, in terms of acquiring in enterprise and the midmarket space. Because we’re able to position that journey to the cloud where some of our competitors can’t. That’s really resonating with our partners and with our customers,” said Kerr.

However, he maintained that NetApp’s on-premises businesses is still going strong.

“In the UK, we are taking share, we are growing faster than the market in our on-prem business,” he said. “Even though we talk about cloud a lot, for us the de facto end state for most organisations is going to be hybrid multicloud. Securing and preparing the on-premises environment for cloud connectivity is critical. So we’re growing that business.

“It’s about giving customers that freedom of choice,” noted Kerr. “If a customer wants to go all in on the public cloud, we can support them as well in that environment with the deep relationships that we have with the hyperscalers.”

Wednesday’s event featured a more diverse audience of partners in attendance than in the past. This is because NetApp is building out a new partner ecosystem as it moves to the cloud, said Kerr.

“We still have the same partner ecosystem as we did a few years ago. But because of our build out in the cloud space, we’ve been attracting a new set of partners,” he said. “Not only in cloud, also in other modern workloads like AI and modern data analytics. So we’re engaging with those consultancies and boutique partners. We’ve also got a presence today from hyperscalers … as they’re using our technology to deliver their cloud services,” he said.

NetApp is also working more closely with alliance partners like Cisco, as partners and customers look for integrated solutions.

“They’re expecting the vendors together to come together to collaborate, to deliver outcome based solutions,” said Kerr.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Christine Horton or connect with her on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Christine Horton

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Christine Horton writes about all kinds of technology from a business perspective. Specializing in the IT sales channel, she is a former editor and now regular contributor to leading channel and business publications. She has a particular focus on EMEA for Channel Futures.

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