Storage Specialist Isilon Systems Makes Partner Program Moves
Isilon Systems, which specializes in scalable storage, network-attached storage, archiving solutions and storage virtualization, is making some channel partner moves. I spoke with Leonard Iventosch, the channel VP who is building Isilon’s partner program. Here’s his strategy.
When I asked Iventosch to tell us a little about Isilon, since they hadn’t blipped on our radar, Iventosch gave a bit of a laugh and noted that they “didn’t deserve to” to show up until now. He elaborated: “We didn’t have an emphasis on the channel, [we didn’t] have a channel program for the last couple years. I don’t think there was ever an executive level commitment to the channel.” In 2008, only 25% of business was channel related.
Isilon mainly did business with people who found them and found their products to be beneficial. The company saw a large niche in Apple-related areas where heavy video editing and big files required large quantities of disk space. Roughly 40% of business came from media and entertainment. But sales — either direct or indirect — tended to be opportunistic.
He says: “There was no active recruitment of partners. No one would seek us out for an opportunity where what [solutions they were using were] already ‘good enough.’ We had success selling into all major studios and rendering farms, animations, coloration….[and] the integrators selling software, [Be it] Avid, Apple, cameras, encoders…[but] they found us, [and were sold to] directly by our sales force.”
But all that’s changed. Iventosch was at NetApp for 8 years before coming over to Isilon about 18 months ago. That’s when he started to shake things up. He rallied the company’s executive team around a channel strategy. By 2009, Isilon had become attractive to a broader base of customers, notability for their high throughput backup (The S-Series), backup and recovery, archiving and virtualization with VMware and XEN. With that, came the need for a plethora of horizontal partners. Clearly, the channel was the path forward.
Flash forward to 2010, and now only about 25% of total sales are in the traditional media niche. Isilon has now integrated with new markets, like ‘life sciences’ — which Iventosch said involved places with heavy research and development, genetic research and higher-education. He also noted that hedge funds for finical modeling, plus the energy sector (oil and gas) and even chip design have found success with Isilon solutions.
Currently, Isilon has about 150-175 North American partners, and double that world-wide. The key to the success has been a combination of driving traffic through ‘micro events’ with alliance members like F5 and VMware (small ‘steak lunches’ where partners and Isilon can chat, gain leads and work on potentials) and the fact that their scale-up NAS has an easy ‘pay as you grow’ system. For Isilon storage, more storage means better performance.
According to Iventosch…
“Our approach was [to get] hundred of incremental leads [and have both partner and Isilon say] ‘thanks, [we’re happy we] found each other. Let’s work together. We put bundled key solutions together [for partners] and price them at a point where the implicit discounts are significantly higher than the channel partner standard discounts. It allows them to make an attractive margin and sell a solution…60-80% of business for our partners is done without special deals and at a 15-30% margin. We’re unique…we’ve got new tools– not revolutionary, but solid [and there’s an] enhanced partner portal coming next quarter…we’re building out the ecosystem…”
Isilon also plans on building out their installation services program to give professional services certification programs for partners looking to get certified.
So who today is using Isilon’s solutions? Facebook is a big name. Isilon’s NAS takes care of all video uploaded to Facebook. Myspace was also noted, along with CTV, the Canadian broadcaster of the Winter Olympics. CTV used Isilon’s Scale-out NAS to as primary data storage to help real-time editing and delivery of video content. “…the major implementation for Vancouver Olympics was sold by [one of our channel partners]” said Iventosch.
So, with even bigger names like NASA, LexisNexus and Paramount Pictures, to just name a few, all using Isilon’s storage systems, will more VARs jump on their bandwagon? We’ll be watching our radar for clues.
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