'7 Minutes' with Ctera Networks SVP and GM John Williams

Ctera describes its "secret sauce" and whom it sees as rivals.

October 18, 2018

6 Min Read

**Editor’s Note: “7 Minutes” is a feature where we ask channel executives from startups – or companies that may be new to the Channel Partners audience – a series of quick questions about their businesses and channel programs.**

By Pam Baker

Startup cloud file-system company Ctera Networks reaped $30 million in Series D growth equity funding this month. The company says it is cash-flow positive so it plans to use this latest cash infusion to further develop its software and expand its global sales efforts into Southeast Asia. Founded in 2008, Ctera has dual headquarters in New York and Israel. Its current regional office lineup includes the U.K., Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Australia.

A cloud file system is built on a hub-and-spoke design for distributing data. The data-storage hub is in the cloud. The spokes are cache systems made of software and hardware appliances installed locally, such as at branch or remote offices, or localized, on-premises data centers. Cloud file systems enable faster retrieval of live data in frequent or immediate use at each locale while also providing the benefits of longer-term cloud storage. There are typically other benefits as well, depending on the features offered by any given vendor.

Capabilities between vendors can differ substantially. For example, Panzura offers more capabilities than file-to-object translation and cloud gateways, such as its AI-driven, multicloud data-management platform. Whether that’s an advantageous extension of capabilities or expensive overkill is a matter of perspective. Also vying for market share are specialists Talon, Nasuni and Avere.


Ctera’s John Williams

Ctera primarily offers file-to-object translation and cloud gateways. The software is capable of caching active data on premises and shifting colder data (older or less used files) to the cloud for storage. Features and capabilities entail data authentication, orchestration, synchronization, sharing and translating data from file to object formats. Customers have a choice of cloud gateway appliances: their own hardware or appliances that come preloaded with the software.

John Williams, SVP and general manager, North America, at Ctera, spoke to Channel Partners about the company’s offerings and partner strategy.

Channel Partners: Tell us what customers love about your product or service. What’s the secret selling sauce?

John Williams: Our platform enables Ctera partners to launch, sell and manage a wide variety of cloud file services offerings. From office next-generation NAS to file sync and share/collaboration to backup and data tiering/archiving, Ctera’s versatile platform is very attractive to VARs, SIs and MSPs seeking to offer cloud file services with repeatable and predictable revenue streams.

CP: Describe your channel program — metal levels, heavy on certifications, open or selective, unique features?

JW: The Ctera Cloud Accelerator Channel Program is a comprehensive channel-enablement vehicle that provides all the right resources and marketing funds to help our partners transition their businesses to the cloud opportunity. We have three program tiers – premier, authorized and registered – with associated discounts, incentives and training levels. The program is open to all resellers. It also includes expanded channel sales-support resources, formal technical training and certification, an online partner portal for training, lead sharing, deal registration and marketing funds.

CP: Quick-hit answers: Percentage of sales through the channel, number of partners, average margin. Go.

JW: Two-hundred fifty partners in North America,100 percent channel-driven.  Margin 30 percent plus.

CP: Do you work with any master agents or distributors now? Is so, which ones, and if not, do you expect to establish these relationships?

JW: We work with Arrow, SHI, Tech Data, and many regional VARs.

CP: Who are your main competitors, and what makes your offering better?

JW: Because Ctera offers a wide range of file services, we compete with a larger number of vendors than most. But we most often see …

… Synology from a NAS standpoint, eFolder for backup, and Dropbox for file sharing.

The key value of Ctera is that you get all of these use cases and more from a unified platform. This enables you to sell, for example, endpoint backup to an SMB customer, and then up-sell them on EFSS or cloud-storage gateways for their remote offices, or mobile file access, or anything else under the Ctera umbrella. Moreover, these services work in conjunction with one another, meaning an end user could leverage a partner’s EFSS tools when on the road, or access his [or] her files through the Ctera gateway when they’re at the office. Customers love the unified file-services experience we offer.

Apart from the platform component, Ctera allows partners to set up service plans, provision storage and centrally manage all gateways and endpoints from a single console. It’s an ideal way for partners to manage and bill customers.

CP: How do you think your technology portfolio will change in the next three years?

JW: We’ll continue to add new third-party integrations to improve the value of the Ctera platform for partners. Today we have wide-ranging integrations with antivirus providers, MDM providers, e-discovery [and so on] to further expand the versatility and viability of our platform, and enable partners to solve varying customer challenges. I think those third-party investments and relationships will continue to grow and drive great value for partners.

CP: How do you expect your channel strategy to evolve over that time frame?

JW:  Earlier this year we introduced a new subscription model for our cloud-storage gateways that combines a lease on the appliance hardware, with the software, cloud storage and management also bundled into a single monthly bill. The response has been very positive; our partners love the simplicity and the value of leasing an appliance. We’re looking at ways to expand the subscription model to other parts of our business, and run promotions in tandem with that as well.

CP: What didn’t we ask that partners should know?

JW: I think it’s important to highlight the versatility of the Ctera platform. Partners can deploy Ctera on their choice of cloud/object storage, including offerings from AWS, Azure, Dell EMC, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Nutanix, and many more. Partners also have the ability to white-label/privately brand the platform.

Ctera also is unique in that our hybrid architecture combines a cloud-side service delivery platform with on-premises appliances and software clients. This enables delivery of file services to diverse environments such as SMBs, remote offices and roaming users, while maintaining end-to-end security and optimizing performance and end-user experience.

By combining diverse cloud-based services and addressing multiple use cases under a single roof, Ctera reduces time to market and costs, allowing service providers to rapidly launch cloud-storage services with no compromise on security, scalability and manageability.

Lorna Garey contributed to this report.

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