In an exclusive interaction with CRN India, Ash Willis, Vice President – Partners & Alliances, APJ at Snowflake shares insights into how the company is helping its partners capitalise on the growth opportunities being created in this cloud-connected world and focusing on ‘building two-way relationships’ with the channel ecosystem.
Q. Let me start by asking, since you’re about to complete a year at Snowflake, how has the journey been thus far?
It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been at Snowflake for almost a year! I joined Snowflake after a five-year career with Google Cloud, and prior to that, I was with Amazon Web Services for almost five years. So, I really enjoy joining organisations in a hyper-growth startup phase, which is exactly where Snowflake is at. Helping execute our mission to mobilize the world’s data, especially with our Data Cloud ecosystem has been a rewarding and exciting journey thus far.
Q. How was your experience in implementing your learnings of more than a decade at Snowflake? What kind of challenges did it bring?
Snowflake is a dynamic company with a commercial model and value proposition that are pretty different from traditional cloud computing. We are focused on our Data Cloud ecosystem, so implementing programs or things that directly benefit customers and partners is quite easy to do in that type of environment. I’ve always been a real advocate of not just taking something from one company and repeating it in the next, but rather taking learnings and making things better, whether those are specific programs or broader strategies. I think it’s important to not fall into that trap of doing what you’ve always done in the past – it is crucial to learn and adapt for the benefit of our customers, partners, and Snowflake as a whole.
Q. Please tell us about the overall growth of the APAC and the APJ channel business, and where does India stand in terms of contributing towards the growth of this region?
Snowflake’s Data Cloud ecosystem is growing rapidly across the APAC / APJ regions and this growth is fueled by our partners – they are absolutely critical to everything that we do. From what I have seen in my travels across regions, India has the most recognition of the value of data, and particularly the demand for data-driven skills. A lot of our partners have big offshore capabilities in India and they are rapidly investing in re-skilling and skill acquisition around the Snowflake Data Cloud and local markets.
Q. Having visited the country, and interacted with the host of partners and customers and from your own experience of working in this region for a long time, have you witnessed any unique traits of the Indian market that are different from other regions?
There is definitely an appetite for growth and an entrepreneurial spirit exists in India. Every meeting and engagement I experience with our partners in India really excites me because people are hyper focused on the growth we can achieve together. There is a lot of motivation behind acquiring talent with skillsets that will not only for service global markets, but also domestic markets.
Q. What all efforts being made to not only grow the partner network in India but also focus on their enablement, training, and certifications?
Snowflake is developing scalable programs to enable the market more holistically through our educational programs, like Snowflake Discover. These online enablement and education programs give us the opportunity to reach a wider group of partners and make it easy for people to consume that knowledge. I see a huge appetite across the globe, but especially in India, for people to learn about everything data-related.
Additionally, we are scaling our broad-based partner enablement programs and have made a significant amount of training available online. We have been very conscious of suiting every style of learning, so we’re ramping up face-to-face trainings as well. We see education not just as formal training and certification, but as an ongoing engagement like the Snowflake Partner Network Connect Program, which is a forum where we get our partners and the Snowflake team together every couple of months to discuss joint programs, initiatives, and enablement.
Regarding how we are scaling the partner ecosystem across India, we are focused on partnering with the right organisations where there’s good synergy – my team and I spend a lot of time analysing each new partner and ensuring that they are a good fit.
Q. Here, can we say that Snowflake is looking to work closely with “born in the cloud” kind niche partners, who may not be big traditional channel companies but smaller companies doing great work in their domain?
I think it’s important to note that while scaling and seeing numbers skyrocket is exciting, our goal is to grow a channel ecosystem of quality, trusted partners. We want our partners to be constantly delighted and excited to build on Snowflake.
We do have “born in the cloud” partners who have capabilities around cloud computing, cloud-based architectures, and a solid understanding of our consumption models. We are always looking for opportunities to work with our bigger global systems integrators, as well. We are seeing a lot of our Powered by Snowflake partners take on the challenge of disrupting application development with us. This has been a huge focus for us and it’s exciting to see our partners jump on board.
Q. It’s been two years since the company launched its first global partner program. Now that you have been here for a year, have you brought any kind of changes or modified the program a bit? Or are you sticking to the ones which were originally laid out?
We have an amazing global partner program team. The group that builds the Snowflake Partner Network, the technology and the programs that underpin that, I would say is world class and some of the best that I’ve seen across my career. We’re continuing to raise the bar for partner programs, evolving as we add new partners to our ecosystem, as market dynamics change, as our customers mature, etc. Partners are at the heart of everything we do, so we stay close to their feedback to ensure we’re always in lockstep and addressing their needs through our content, resources, and programs. Snowflake was just getting the Powered by Snowflake program off the ground when I joined and that program has seen tremendous growth – it’s a great example of how Snowflake evolves to meet the demands of our customers and partners.
Q. Since businesses are increasingly becoming data-driven, and cloud has become the de facto IT infrastructure of choice, so to better enable the customers who are facing IT complexities, do you think it’s time to reinforce the need to constantly innovate, specialise and learn new ways to serve customers in this data-driven world?
There’s no doubt about that and the challenging thing with data is not the competition between platforms, but helping customers identify the types of data that are valuable to their organisation. People associate data and data platforms with traditional data, but if you look across these industries, there are some types of data that are either not getting captured at the moment, or if it’s been captured, it’s not really being leveraged in a usable way. I think we have a great opportunity to educate customers on data-driven use cases that probably aren’t even being imagined at the moment. The way the market is analyzing the data in terms of today is really only the tip of the iceberg.
Q. Currently, everyone is talking about the hybrid, multi-cloud environment. In this environment, how is Snowflake making transitions to support its partners to adapt to this change and help them deliver a unified and consistent cloud experience for the customers?
Multi-cloud has always been one of Snowflake’s foundational beliefs. We want to give customers the choice and flexibility to run on the platform that they deem is best for their needs. A lot of partners that we engage with already have a pretty good grasp of the concept of multi-cloud and its consumption-based economics, mainly across the cloud space. But I believe that consumption-based models are good for everyone – it keeps the provider motivated to retain customers and it gives customers great flexibility to scale up or down based on their needs and circumstances.
Q. I found a very interesting statement of yours where you have said that you want to focus on building two-way relationships with partners. So, what does this really imply?
A partnership needs to be mutually beneficial to both parties. There’s no doubt that there is a massive interest around Snowflake and the Data Cloud, it’s wonderful to see organizations realizing the value of our technology. And that’s why we spend the time to understand what the partner really wants out of the relationship, helping them understand the economic model, and how they can monetize the data cloud opportunity and grow.
Q. Lastly, taking learnings from your past experiences and then having spent about a year here in Snowflake, what are the top goals that you have set for your partners in 2023 and beyond? And which are the areas your partners should invest in to be aligned with the directions being set for them?
First, we want to continue to invest without missing any opportunity, we are just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Data Cloud opportunity. Second, we want to continue to build competency – technical competency, go-to-market competency, sales competency, and the like. Third, we want to focus on determining what our partners want and need. I encourage our partners to be deliberate with what they want to do and allow us to help them along the way. 2023 will be an exciting year for us all!