Infomart Exec: Automation is the New Assembly Line in the Channel
When Sandy Thielamay came to Infomart to build and manage the data center’s nascent channel partner program, he knew he didn’t want to run a traditional, commoditized business model.
“In the end, generators are generators. Chillers are chillers. The humidity in the room is humidity. It’s a commodity. It’s simple.”
So all things being equal in a commoditized price-bidding war, what’s the differentiator? If Thielamay wanted to elevated the conversation and improve how Infomart could influence customers and close a deal, he knew he had to focus on two things: how the company would deliver on customers’ business outcomes, and how to manage risk. In other words, he says, he had to stop focusing on the pure-play real estate and start focusing on the customer.
“It’s like selling meat to a vegetarian. We ain’t buying. It was important to understand how customers wanted to consume our product.”
Defining Infomart’s target market was essential to that effort. For every megawatt deal a LinkedIn or Google makes every year, there are dozens of data centers competing for it in a sales cycle that can take up to 12 to 16 months or more. Like many vendors today, Thielamay quickly came to realize that Infomart was passing up a prime opportunity with the SMB market. And if he wanted an avenue to reach out to that market, he had to build a channel that focused on rack-ready wholesale models rather than those megawatt deals everyone clamors for.
“The trick in this industry that I’ve learned is that it’s the cross-connect fees that are killing you. If you buy a rack at $1k, your cross-connect could run you up to $350 or so. I’m not in the cross-connect business. I’m in the real estate business,” he reiterates.
Keeping that real estate focus was key. Infomart rents commoditized space and power, and Thielamay knew that in order to compete, the company had to start introducing services into its business model. But there was no way it wanted to offer those services itself.
Thielamay built an exchange where MSPs and VARs could see potential deals and engage in a competitive bid process. Instead of running a traditional referral model, Infomart engages its partners to provide the ongoing services that drive recurring revenue and customer stickiness.
For inspiration for his pricing model, Thielamay turned to providers like Dropbox that typically offer a Basic, Recommended, and Corporate package. Then he tweaked Infomart’s offering to reflect that simple program.
Infomart’s bundled package is based on a fixed per-cabinet price with a one-time installation fee and no monthly connectivity charge for the remainder of the contract. The company acts as a ‘carrier hotel’ connecting small customers with multiple private, public, and hybrid cloud solution providers all in that one basic price. When you multiply that $350 in cross-connect fees for five or 10 different providers, it equates to a big reduction in cost.
For customers drawing more than 3kw of power, Thielamay built a mid-tier offering that includes an extra kw for free and then charges a sliding scale cost for any usage over 4kw.
If a customer wants to lease a wide box of 20,000 ft2, Infomart brings them the raw power from the utility company, and the corporate customer builds its own generators. As part of this offering, the company can build a large infrastructure with cooling for more than a megawatt.
“I don’t believe in a commodity business—I believe in an IT enablement business. I’m not a solution, but I’m the medium to everything you’re going to actually need. You might need an MSP that’s going to help you manage those services that you’ve installed. I have that for you through my exchange.”
A hundred years ago, Henry Ford figured out that in order to compete on volume, manufacturers needed an assembly line. In the 21st century, the assembly line becomes automation. Infomart built out a single pane of glass portal to automate the deal exchange between partners and end customers. The portal also has an integrated LMS that provides a series of education modules for customers that aren’t all that familiar with Infomart’s offering, because while the company will step in to close the deal, it wants its partners to initiate conversations with end users.
“This program will work for one simple reason: If you can trust in people’s self-interest, everybody wins.”