Interview

Unlocking the Cloud Experience

NetApp enables partners to build a data fabric to maximise the value of their data, ensure apps run optimally, and unlock the best of cloud

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Anything data protection-related is in demand right now, from business resiliency to cyber resiliency, backup and security, to core and endpoint protection, along with associated management tools for automation.

Arumugam,
Director-Channel Sales,
NetApp

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The Cloud technology has been gaining momentum over the last several years. But the Pandemic and the ensuing shift to online operations and massive adoption of work-from-home-culture and online learning gave it a much needed shot in the arm. As the India market remains in the eye of a major digital transformation buoyed by a tech-centred Union Budget, SME Channels embarks upon recording the voices of the who’s who of the Cloud scape.

As part of our effort to make the voices of major cloud players heard by the channel community, we have brought in this for you as first of a series of Cloud Predictions by major vendors.

Here, in a special interaction with SME Channels, Ganesan Arumugam, Director – Channel Sales, NetApp, reveals his organization’s strategy for growing the cloud industry, his predictions for the industry and his vision and plans for the channel community. Edited excerpts…

The pandemic has forced businesses to take a giant leap to go online. As a leading cloud data management player, how do you plan to leverage the immense market opportunity created by the pandemic? 

Digital transformation has become a business imperative to thrive in the new normal and to succeed, businesses need to optimise their hybrid multi-cloud IT architectures. No matter where organisations are on their digital journey, we enable our partners to help them build a data fabric to maximise the value of their data, ensure applications are running optimally, and unlock the best of cloud.

Between last year and now, we have made five acquisitions that increased our ability to help enterprises on their cloud journey. The acquisitions, along with the enhancements to the cloud storage capabilities, have helped establish a platform for a highly optimised application-driven infrastructure. For instance, Spot enables customers to make enormous savings on their cloud bills. CloudJumper dynamically assigns storage resources to virtual desktops; and Talon helps centralise the data from multiple offices to the cloud.

Our partnerships with major cloud players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform empower our customers to accelerate their performance and scale, on demand. Azure NetApp Files (ANF) for Microsoft Azure Cloud enables enterprises to migrate and run complex, performance-intensive and latency-sensitive applications faster in the cloud than they can on-prem.

As a major cloud data management player, what market trends do you foresee in 2022? 

With IT innovations redefining the workplace and hybrid workplaces continuing to gain momentum, we will also see organisations further experimenting with software-defined solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). There will be an increased demand for infrastructure-as-a-service and other hybrid multi-cloud services.

As I see it, the following trends will differentiate future-ready firms from legacy organisations in 2022:

  • Cloud-native platforms: The cloud revolution for Indian businesses – The coming year will see large organisations move decisively away from a lift-and-shift approach to the cloud, embracing cloud-native technologies instead
  • Data privacy and security: The increasing importance of data – Data will also make data security and reliability top priorities for both companies and consumers alike
  • 5G: The game-changer for tech transformation in India – We are increasingly seeing players in the technology industry and business community invest in building edge-computing environments to support AI-driven IoT
  • The rise of sustainable technology in India (ESG): – In 2022, the demand for sustainability-related services powered by edge and IoT will grow in the areas of energy efficiency and resource management. Use cases for technologies like this will be environmental monitoring, resource management, and supply chain processes
  • AI-driven intelligent data management: The work that many organisations started in 2021 with new use cases for AI, will continue to expand as businesses realise the power that AI can hold for solving problems better, faster, and at scale

Please shed some light on your cloud offerings and its USP?

We call ourselves a specialist in the world of generalists. We hold a unique position as the only cloud solution provider that has a strategic partnership with all three major hyperscalers – Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. NetApp solutions are available natively in the top three public clouds, enabling organisations to build a hybrid multi-cloud data fabric with ease. Our proprietary storage operating system, ONTAP provides a smart, powerful, and trusted storage infrastructure that reduces costs, accelerates critical workloads, and secures data across hybrid multi-cloud environments.

One advantage of this focused investment in innovation is that we can provide businesses with a plethora of solutions based on the industry’s leading storage operating system, ONTAP.

  • ONTAP running on NetApp All Flash Arrays in today’s modern datacentre
  • ONTAP Software equivalent in any hyperscaler of a customer’s choice
  • ONTAP High-performance managed filesystem services as first-party managed services on every major hyperscaler — Azure NetApp Files, Amazon FSx for ONTAP, Cloud Volumes Service
  • A true hybrid storage architecture that spans the modern data center and public clouds, allowing for tiering of data where it assures the optimal performance at lowest cost
  • Backup of their snapshots to the cloud to free up space on their on-prem systems
  • Managed services through partners for anything short-to-long term
  • Keystone services for financial easing of the CapEx/OpEx effects
  • Managed desktops through a hyperscaler to enable work-anywhere environments.
  • Managed container-based applications in the cloud to reduce on-prem storage

What major channel trends for cloud would you forecast for the year 2022? 

The global pandemic has forced businesses to significantly adapt how they operate and how/where their employees work, prompting massive technological transformation across the board.  Over the past two years, we’ve seen the role of channel partners evolve from traditional technology consultants to something closer to “business consultants” to address this need.

  • Evolution of the channel ecosystem:

Channel partners will continue to evolve and empower customers across their environment vs. focusing on one specialty. This broadening will offer customers an optimized experience while creating new levels of opportunity and involvement for channel partners.

  • The rise of the marketplace:

To address the need for diverse offerings, I expect to see further adoption and engagement around marketplaces as a strategic initiative. More businesses will be able to explore a variety of offerings while reducing the cost and complexity that comes with traditional channel sales.

  • Increased focus on data protection and security:

Anything data protection-related is in demand right now, from business resiliency to cyber resiliency, backup and security, to core and endpoint protection, along with associated management tools for automation. At the same time, cybersecurity is also a hot area that channel partners need to focus on. Customers ask to provide managed security solution is going to be more prominent this year.

Would you please brief us on the kind of service support you extend to your channel partners? What sort of pre as well as post-sales support do you offer to your partners? 

It’s an exciting time to be a NetApp partner. The new updates we have made to our Unified Partner Program will make it easier for our partners to do business with us. Together, by offering a simpler experience, more flexibility, and clear areas for our joint investment. These changes will enable us to further differentiate ourselves, based on our expertise and contribution. More importantly, it serves as a clear roadmap for our alignment with NetApp and the emerging roles of an OEM and its partner community.

Some of the key benefits that we offer to our partners

The latest updates are just the start of a multi-phase strategy to incentivize and reward our partners for their solution expertise, while delivering greater value to their customers.

There are four key pillars basis which we have updated our Unified Partner Program:

  • Simplify. NetApp will unify contracts and agreements; streamline guides and policies; offer fewer, more focused, deal-based incentive programs; and offer growth attainment rebate programs.
  • Expand. NetApp will provide registered partners with access to more information, communication, enablement, and training. The updates will include bringing cloud first partners into the NetApp® Unified Partner Program and expand NetApp Learning Services training programs for cloud partners and service providers. NetApp will expand and update its specializations with new content and benefits, including the addition of SAP and XaaS (“anything as a service”).
  • Invest. NetApp will continue to invest in tools that make business planning and incentive management simpler and more collaborative for partners. It will offer a bigger payout in its New Account Incentive Program and allow rebates to be paid faster through the Run to NetApp Incentive Program. NetApp also launched a new Tech Refresh Incentive Program that helps partners take advantage of the extensive NetApp installed base.
  • Differentiate. NetApp now organizes partners by Registered, Gold, Platinum, and Star program levels. The program will showcase partners with specific and focused specializations, highlighting partners who provide services across key focus areas, including XaaS, implementation, support, cloud, foundation, hybrid cloud, and converged infrastructure.

Both technology and an aligned services strategy are central to a company’s success. Selling and delivering your unique partner-branded services contribute to longer-term overall business growth through increased revenue, larger deal sizes, better margins, and greater levels of customer satisfaction and retention. Other benefits include accreditation and recognition through formal NetApp Specializations, access to margin-enhancing financial incentives, and exclusive access to NetApp Services intellectual property.

Since cloud is a tech-intensive product, it requires proper skilling. Please detail us on the training programs offered by you to upskill your partners. 

We have launched multiple solution specialization programs for our partners. NetApp Solution Specializations are designed to help partners distinguish their business as a leading provider of expertise and solutions to support today’s IT trends. Through these specializations partners gain presales training and enablement in a focused, market-favoured solution area to complement their existing business.

One of the solution specializations is our cloud preferred partner program. Cloud Preferred partner status enables qualifying partners to stand out as leaders in delivering best- in-class NetApp public cloud services solutions. The NetApp program recognizes partners for their competency in optimizing solutions with AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. We offer sales and presales training on cloud solutions under this program, which enables partners to get trained and certified on specialised cloud solutions.

Our team helps NetApp’s partners in navigating through learning paths to attain the necessary skills and certifications to deliver the best services to their customers on implementing, migrating, and maintaining customers’ cloud workloads and applications.

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