Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 15th annual XChange Solution Provider conference in Los Angeles, an event hosted by Everything Channel. This conference hosts over 225 high-level channel executives and is aimed at those resellers that design and provide solutions and services for their customers. As part of my standard “listen and learn” exercise, I had the opportunity to talk to a vast number of partners executives and discuss their strategies for growth and directions in the coming years. At the conference this year, Brocade held three Boardroom presentations (on Networking, Security and Small/Medium Business Strategies) and we also participated in a panel session alongside other “hot” vendors and partners.
The Hottest Vendors 2010
I was very pleased to be asked to step up with four other vendors to be part of a panel discussion moderated by Everything Channel's Steve Burke called “The Hot Vendors to Watch in 2010.” The set of questions revolved around what the key differentiators and challenges are within the channel and asked what each vendor is doing to address the issues. When listing the benefits of our Alliance Partner Network (APN) Program - from marketing funds and free and low-cost training benefits and valuable rebate and product programs to a rock solid deal registration program along with the fireworks of channel-focused benefits we launched to our trusted partners - I got a lot of positive attention from the crowd.
I was lucky to be joined by Jamie Shepard, EVP of International Computerware, Inc. (ICI) on stage - he's the first panelist from the left in the photo. ICI is a a loyal Alliance Partner from Boston. Jamie shared with the audience what a great impact our Brocade Rewards program has had on his sales force and how motivated his team is to work with and for Brocade. It was an awesome partner testimony that meant a lot more to partners coming from one their own versus me telling them.
Another hot subject of discussion was the point of support and service models for channels. Faced with dwindling hardware margins, partners absolutely have to have partnerships that are willing to let them partake in revenues and show their value to support and service the end-user customer. No channel partner wants a vendor that aims to keep all services and support revenues to themselves. Again – our model for support and professional services partnership is going the right way. More to come on this topic in 2010.
The hottest topic at the show – “Cloudy with a chance of margin”
Now this was clearly one of the hottest topics for solutions providers worldwide. Whether they are fully embracing cloud computing, whether they are taking their first peeks at the new model, or whether they are just gazing at the clouds from their office windows, any solutions provider is looking at how they can ensure to have their “piece of the pie” and how they can adjust their businesses to take advantage of cloud computing. This will require a fresh look on compensation models, evaluation of financial implications, re-alignment of sales and marketing models and so on. The advent of cloud computing is probably one of the most fundamental business model changes business partners need to look at in a long time. The opportunities will be multifold as Solutions Providers sharpen up their offerings and services to help their customers work through new computing, storage and application requirements.
As always, Brocade will adapt and transform to offer our partners best-in-class products, programs and opportunities. Toward the middle of this year, I will be announcing some fundamental program changes to offer new benefits and opportunities for partners investing in Cloud, Convergence and Virtualization – stay tuned for those. And let us know what you think in the comments below - I am still “listening and learning.”