NetApp Launches New Partner Sphere Program With Emphasis On Competencies

NetApp Tuesday completely revamped its channel program with an emphasis on competencies as a way to help its channel partners better differentiate themselves in the cloud era.

The new NetApp Partner Sphere partner program aims to make it simple for the company’s channel partners to show their unique value to the vendor and to their clients, said Jenni Flinders, senior vice president for the San Jose, Calif.-based company’s worldwide partner organization.

“Our goal is to make it easy for partners to drive consumption, manage their sales tools, and more,” Flinders told CRN. “We want to let partners drive their unique values. So we are shifting the focus away from products and towards competencies.”

[Related: NetApp Ups Cloud Flexibility With New Google Focus, Low-Cost Flash]

NetApp is showing it continues to understand its channel partners with its new NetApp Partner Sphere program, said Kurt Klein, CEO of DataEndure, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time NetApp partner.ADVERTISEMENT

Basing a partner program on competencies and attaining certain goals are key to the success of that program, Klein told CRN.

“I think the measurements should be a combination of competencies and some type of goal attainment,” he said. “I’m in favor of blending them because I want my sales leader to be motivated by the top line. I want my technical engineers to be motivated by competencies and making sure that we’re current on all of those and that we’re advancing our skillsets.”

The NetApp Partner Sphere program replaces multiple existing NetApp partner programs, including the NetApp Unified partner program, the Global Systems Integrator program, the Service Provider program, and the Consultant partner program.

Partner Sphere aims to help channel partners expand their business in three focus areas and 19 competencies, Flinders.

Under the first focus area, cloud, partners can study for and test for five different competencies, including cloud modernization with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, as well as cloud optimization using NetApp Spot and application optimization using SAP.

In the second focus area, hybrid cloud, partners can qualify for up to 11 competencies, including hybrid multi-cloud with VMware, FlexPod converged infrastructure with Cisco, storage as a service with NetApp Keystone, along with multiple competencies related to data protection, monitoring, and optimization.

Partners can also get three competencies related to AI and analytics, including AI with Nvidia DGX, AI with FlexPod AI, and data analytics with Splunk for security and ITOps, she said.

NetApp channel partners are encouraged to get multiple competencies in any of the three focus areas, and across multiple focus areas as well, Flinders said.

For cloud-focused competencies, NetApp recognizes partner certifications with AWS, Azure, and Google, and so will not offer redundant training in those areas, she said.

NetApp has also moved its channel partners, including 850 partners in North America, into the three new tiers that come with the NetApp Partner Sphere program, Flinders said.

Globally, NetApp has over 6,500 partners at the “Approved” entry tier, over 400 partners at the “Preferred” tier where a certain number of competencies are required, and over 100 partners at the “Prestige” tier where the requirements include demonstrating a high level of competencies along with a solid book of business, she said.

The NetApp Partner Sphere program is not going to partners overnight, Flinders said.

“We’ve been working with a ‘white glove’ transition for partners so they know what tier they are on. … We’ve been working with them on this for a while,” she said. “We’re excited to get the ball rolling. This is not a rebrand, but a lift-and-shift to a modern program from a company that has always been partner-led.”LEARN MORE: Cloud Storage  | Cloud Infrastructure  | Cloud Platforms  | Cloud Channel Programs  | Data Protection Technologies  | Data Protection-Disaster Recovery 

 Learn About Joseph F. Kovar


Joseph F. Kovar is a senior editor and reporter for the storage and the non-tech-focused channel beats for CRN. He keeps readers abreast of the latest issues related to such areas as data life-cycle, business continuity and disaster recovery, and data centers, along with related services and software, while highlighting some of the key trends that impact the IT channel overall. He can be reached at [email protected].


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