The NetApp, channel partners’ growth saga

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Leaders don’t need testimonials to back them, their work speaks a million words. How else would you justify a company which steps in India 12 years ago (although it has a legacy of 27 years), and now has a Centre of Excellence, Data Visionary Centre, R&D centre and a huge channel partner base under its belt, and is “helping customers change the world with data”, rings well the tagline of data management company NetApp.

NetApp, traditionally a storage vendor, has now in its true essence transitioned into a data management company. Its core competency lies in data, ranging from data storage, data protection, data location, on premises, hybrid data to data compression- which also spirals out into the company’s philosophy of data fabric.

“In the last 25 years, our focus has been compressing, encrypting and storage of data. We have also witnessed cloud shaping in the last three to four years. Cloud has transformed into a big component for every enterprise coupled with the entire digital transformation across all facets of industries, making data an asset for enterprise,” says Anil Valluri, President – India & SAARC, NetApp.

In this digital world, almost everything is related to data and it is no more just a form ledger or record. The last few years have seen a major explosion in how data has been utilised and how it has been interpreted. People have also witnessed more than 100 per cent to 200 per cent growth rate every year on how data is being consumed. This change has brought in renewed interest in storing, archiving and accessing data on demand economically.

“As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India is an important part of our growth strategy. NetApp has a strong foothold in the market and are innovating locally at our R&D centre and showcasing our innovation at our Data Visionary Centre,” states George Kurian, CEO, NetApp.

George Kurian, CEO, NetApp

“With digital transformation accelerating, Indian companies need a partner who can help them harness today’s volume of data and apply it to create value across the entire organisation. This creates enormous opportunity for NetApp and our partners. We are enabling customers to build data fabrics that seamlessly connect their on-premises and cloud environments and put data at the heart of their strategies. We deliver a rich set of technology combined with a simple customer experience so customers can consume and operate their IT on their terms. Partners are a critical part of the ecosystem and our simplified partner initiative helps align our partners with the dynamic market conditions and customer requirements,” adds Kurian.

The company sees huge green pastures in India as the very presence of 1.3 billion people is a huge opportunity because data usage is high. “We are watching videos, making cell phone calls, interacting on WhatsApp messages, then there is social media, web presence, cloud companies, startup companies, all of which add to a huge consumption of data. So, India is a big target market for NetApp. The India market size is not big, but it is probably one of the fastest growing large economies in the world. Therefore, it is very strategic for us being a big believer in the Indian ecosystem in terms of the talent pool. So, we have over 2,000 people at our engineering centre based in Bangalore, wherein we do core engineering development. A lot of our products globally are made and created here. Therefore, we are leveraging not just the market, but also the talent in terms of capability and innovation that exists in India,” claims Valluri.

NetApp India may not be as big as Japan, China, Australia or other countries, but the growth is faster than others.

“For every vendor who operates in India, India is a smaller base, it is not as big as Germany, Japan or Australia, because these are all developed markets. However, India’s growth rate is probably the fastest; in the next three to four years, we will cross them as in these countries the growth rates are virtually zero, or one per cent. You are talking about economy growing at five per cent and the storage and data space has been growing at seven to eight per cent in terms of market, and we have a faster growing market, so obviously the growth rates are overtaking the absolute numbers at some point in time,” explains Valluri.

Focused partnership
As an organisation, the company may look like one of those lean ones. The reason being its strength is manifested in its extended family, which is the channel ecosystem spread around the country.

“We heavily rely on our channel partners for engaging with our potential and already existing customers. We do not have a large workforce out there unlike some of our competitors, which are out in the marketplace meeting up with the customer and so on. The domino effect that the channel partners give us in the marketplace is something which is very critical and the cornerstone of our growth in the country,” emphasises Kaushal Veluri, Director – Channels and Alliances, NetApp India and SAARC.

“So if our revenues are shooting up by a good CAGR year-on-year, then the onus of that goes to our partner ecosystem as well. That’s the integral relationship that NetApp shares with its partner ecosystem. We look at having an integrated partnership with our partners wherein we can work together in a synergetic manner because at the end of day, it is also about how you alluded to the overall revenue growth of the company,” he adds.

NetApp works with its partner ecosystem, focused on three aspects – innovation, skills and revenue. These aspects form the cornerstones for having a mutually beneficial business relationship.

NetApp’s core competencies

Cloud: NetApp realised that as a company it has some solid strengths in the domain of cloud and noticed that cloud is becoming a big part of the entire way technology is consumed, resulting in a change of perspective and engaging more with cloud. “We thought, what if we could embrace cloud and offer technologies, which enable customers to move to cloud and later benefit by storing data on the cloud, as we are providing technologies on the cloud side through Amazon through Azure through Google. Therefore we are actively promoting adoption of cloud,” says Valluri.

He affirms that this is one part of it, the second part is that they have seen the customers who have not moved to the cloud and are using the model of cloud as a consumption model. “This same cloud behaviour is being mirrored in their own enterprises or in their own data centres. That’s what we call as the hybrid cloud. Private cloud is big as well and we are players in the hybrid cloud area, or the regular mega hyper cloud. And the third aspect is that we’ve seen lot of customers using traditional infrastructures and old equipment and old technologies. How do you modernise them and make them cloud ready? We picked three areas. One is look at customer legacy and move them to be cloud ready. Second is, how do your customers embrace private cloud and third is, who are already on the curve of sophistication, take them to a hybrid cloud environment, where they’re able to get the best of both worlds of the public cloud as well as the private cloud – what we call the hybrid cloud. So that’s how we are positioned,” he adds.

Veluri points out, “A couple of years ago, a partner would come and say that a customer set is moving to the cloud so the storage box story is over and hence he would not be able to go back to the customer. Today we come back to them and say, the cloud story also has an attached story. Here, we have taken our storage operating system called ONTAP, and separate it from that of our hardware and would ask them to set it up in the cloud.”

According to Veluri, the story that is very strong with NetApp is the entire data fabric story, or how does a customer manage data across disparate infrastructures. “As an organisation, any customer would have their data across hybrid infrastructure cloud, or on-premise. But how are they managing the data is the question. In today’s world, it becomes an even more important point because you are talking about IoT, you are talking about connected cars, you are talking about data existing in every single device. In such a scenario, how do you now manage data from the edge to the core, which is your datacentre, and to the cloud. That is the story that NetApp talks about,” he mentions.

DevOps: The other focus area of the company is DevOps, which is the new model of developing software. “You can do lot of inline development without rewriting the full code and redoing revisions and so on. It’s a new way of developing code which is nimble and agile. And you can release faster versions and enable bugs to be fixed faster. All of it is using NetApp technologies around snap technologies or DevOps. DevOps, artificial intelligence and cloud are the three applications we have our focus on. And for the cloud-first, mobile-first companies, these are essential. Their entire application model is based on DevOps. They use artificial intelligence to a great extent and are completely cloud based. These are the areas NetApp is working on, globally and in India as well,” says Valluri.

With over 145 partners in the marketplace, the company is100 per cent partner driven.

Flash: Data fabric allows data to be seamlessly moved, stored, accessed, compressed, and secured anywhere. Cloud is one big part of it, second is flash, which it is a new way of doing things around storage. “There is no relevance in using discs and other media, as flash gives you the best performance. Also, it gives you savings in power in cooling space. The status of data centre has dramatically shrunk because of the form factor reduction of flash. So, what used to be in multiples of racks and racks of data centres, now has become three-four racks in the data centre, which has led to huge savings in space, power, cooling, electricity, etc,” informs Valluri, reminding that this way flash reduces data centre sizes and leads to cost savings.

Core strength
All of NetApp’s strategies involve partners at the core. The company helps enabling the partners or equipping them, or telling them how to provide a comprehensive solution or backing them up with professional services, or giving them tools such as pricing or configuration tools; all of that are open to partners.

The NetApp Labs, particularly the Centre of Excellence in AI and Centre of Excellence on data in Bangalore are available to partners to give to their customers and leverage it themselves.

“What differentiates NetApp from others is that we allow our partners to do services completely from their side, and we don’t encroach upon partners’ ability to do services, we don’t take away the services from partners which they give to customers. So, partners can not only add value with NetApp’s technologies, but they can build services on top of it, and offer their own services over it. We don’t say that all services should be built by NetApp. Most of the services are built by partners. So that’s the advantage,” indicates Valluri.

The company is coming up with new enablement. “How do we explain and upskill our partners to match up to the cutting-edging technologies and then educate the customers in alignment to our core messaging is important. For this, we have a very strong enablement program that we have set up on a quarter-to-quarter basis. While regular interactions happen with the customers on a particular technology – typically what happens is that the team becomes myopic on that particular technology. But what about the menu board of technology that NetApp has to offer? Here we do something called Partner Academy Program on a quarter-to-quarter basis to educate the partners about various product lines that NetApp offers. This time, we are doing it in November again or the upcoming quarter and we will go across nine cities this time – Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Dhaka and Colombo,” informs Veluri.

Digital transformation
Valluri believes that India has still a long way to go in terms of using technology for citizen services. He says, “For instance in terms of healthcare, we have not yet evolved in terms of using technology, particularly IT and data around healthcare for unified patient records and medicines. Ayushman Bharat is trying to change that.”

He points out, “Similarly, if you look at various other citizen services, whether it is properties, land records, income tax, your daily areas of interaction of life whether it is smart cities, we still have a long way to go. We are not completely digital yet. And I am not saying that we should compare ourselves to the West. It is not digital as well, but look at countries like Japan, China, Singapore and Korea who have extremely evolved.”

For India, using digital is the best way to bridge the rich and poor divide. “For the education sector as well, how much can we deliver through schools and teachers and so on. We have lack of skill as well as quality. So digital would mean reaching the last mile as well as getting the quality. Healthcare, education, government these are all big areas for us to reach out and make an impact. We are a huge country, we are probably just nibbling at that edge, and if all goes well, the way the government is planning, we will see a sea change in how technology is being used by the government in delivering services. In my mind, UPI, UIDAI, and all of that will be core to the transformation,” states Valluri.

“India already has some robust reference points including UIDAI, and so on, and the new health ID that is going to come up. Then the country will really blossom out and we will really be able to showcase in terms of how IT is being used, how technology is being used to touch 1.3 billion people in several areas,” he concludes.

Partner Corner:

Strong growth trajectory
K N Murali, Director – Alliances and HR, NTT Ltd India

Dimension Data revealed a new identity in May 2019 wherein the talents and services of NTT Communications, Dimension Data, and NTT Security, as well as associated affiliates, were brought together to create a leading global technology services provider.

NTT India, which was called Dimension Data India, has been on a very strong growth trajectory over the last six to seven years. We’ve had growth that is of the order of about 18 per cent compounded annual growth rate over a six-year period. We’ve grown across the board, but there have been specific areas that we’ve done extremely well in, as a part of our growth strategy as well as part of the focus that we’ve tried to bring to certain areas of our business. We’ve seen growth happen; for example, in the mid-market segment. Until about four or five years ago, the mid-market segment was extremely new. Today, it has grown so significantly, that it constitutes almost 15 per cent of our overall business in the country and reflects the new logos that we typically bring into the organisation. It is also one of those verticals which is constantly adding more and more accounts into the list.

We have been associated with NetApp for about 14 -15 years. At least for the last seven or eight years, we’ve certainly seen the data centre business and the hybrid cloud business as a significant priority for us. We’ve been looking to grow that business and when it comes to data centres, NetApp is the prominent partner. With the transition into offering a comprehensive portfolio for a fully cloud enabled cloud centric world, NetApp has become even better positioned.

NetApp was initially known as a storage solutions provider and the pioneer in All Flash. NetApp did significant work on the storage front. We believe that the whole world is shifting towards cloud, the transitions are already happening, and people are looking at cloud as a priority for organisations. Also equally importantly, it’s no longer about storage, it has become passé. It’s about how data is managed in a hybrid and multi cloud world. We genuinely think NetApp is the key partner in the hybrid multi cloud world where data movement, data migration and data portability and flexibility become important. So in a world, where we see digital transformation, where there’s such proliferation of data; in a world which is cloud, managing the data and managing the cloud becomes important and NetApp becomes the most important partner for us to work with.

Most important to notice is that, NetApp is almost entirely a partner focused company and not into the services industry, which works well for us. They also support us in executing and services that we can provide to our clients. They have a lot of good programs around training and enablement for delivery as well as important business and marketing programs. We’ve seen so many useful marketing programs that NetApp does, which allows us to generate opportunities and generate healthy pipeline.

Focus On Driving Growth:
Sundaresan K, Vice President & Country General Manager, Tech Data India

As we evolve our business in anticipation of what’s next, our strategy evolves too. Our strategic focus is based on driving growth and enabling our channel partners to move to a higher value. The four pillars of this strategy are:

◗ Investing in next-generation technologies: Hybrid cloud, data (analytics, IoT), security and services

◗ Strengthening our end-to-end portfolio: Enhancing our partner, vendor and solutions portfolio, and consumption models

◗ Transforming Tech Data digitally:Through process redesign, automation, advanced analytics and user interfaces

◗ Optimising our global footprint: Driving services, support, and business optimisation

This is made successful by the skills and talent of our great people. From a number’s perspective, in fiscal year 2019, Tech Data’s worldwide sales grew 11 per cent to more than US$ 37.2 billion. In Asia Pacific, net sales were US$ 1.2 billion, an increase of 14 per cent compared to FY 2018.

Tech Data and NetApp joined forces in India in 2010 to create a strong partnership, blending NetApp’s excellence in management of enterprise data with Tech Data’s industry-leading solutions aggregation capabilities.

NetApp has been one of our key vendors and a contributor in our overall growth. NetApp’s channelcentric business model supports business growth and maximum profitability. NetApp is recognised throughout the industry for continually pushing the limits of today’s technology, enabling their customers to save money and acquire the capabilities they need to be successful.

NetApp’s Partner Program is a great platform that helps partners cultivate new business opportunities. With NetApp sales and technical enablement support, it offers value-added products to expand our partner base and drive profitability.

Building partner competencies
SS Dhingra, Managing Director, Binary Global

Binary Global started its journey in 2010, providing network infrastructure and data security solutions. We gradually entered the domain of data management and cloud. Today, our customers include large enterprises, public sector, financial institutions, service providers, mid-market and commercials customers.

Our areas of expertise include smart infrastructure, cyber defence, data management (private, public and hybrid), applications and managed services.

We have been associated with NetApp for almost five years, NetApp solutions blend in seamlessly with Binary Global’s approach and offerings and has contributed immensely to our growth.

There are many knowledge sharing sessions, webinars, classroom trainings to help us build our capabilities and competencies. There is also a lot of push internally within NetApp to build partner competencies.

Our company is NetApp Platinum Partner and also Professional Services Certified partner. From initially designing the solution to complete implementation, all is done by our team of certified NetApp professionals; this helps in proper solution delivery, better user experience, and adds to service revenue for our organisation.

In terms of use cases, the first and foremost use-case would be on all-flash datacenters. This improves efficiency and performance and lowers total cost of ownership for customers. NetApp’s AFF solutions fit right in and add immense value.

There are also use cases around next generation solutions like AI/ML, which have a matched offering in NetApp portfolio like ONTAP AI.

A robust partnership
Tarun Seth, MD, Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic

Our ability to architect the right solution for the customer on NetApp technologies is next to none. We are the first to implement the NetApp AWS integrated DR on cloud. Our expertise across OCI, AFF, HCI and solution architecture including private cloud, availability security has been a compelling proposition for our customers.

Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic (HSMC) is focusing around mobility, security, cloud and collaborating with our group companies around analytics, IoT and applications. Hence, we are able to address the entire gamut of technology enablement and solutions around the digital space.

In terms of use cases, the customers wanted to have sub-millisecond access to production data, data backup for compliance at on-prem and long-term retention.

Solution: HISYS team worked with the customer and NetApp to create a robust, reliable and sustainable solution to address the mentioned use case. Our team designed a solution using NetApp AFF for production workload and Storage Grid with fabric pool to address compliance requirement.

For long term retention, NetApp CVO on AWS or Azure cloud was suggested. Our teams were successful in convincing the security, availability and consistency issues of the customers.

The NetApp team worked with us relentlessly to ensure all the queries of customer got resolved and we sold NetApp AFF with Fabric pool, Storage Grid and NetApp CVO to the customer. This is a great story of how basis our relations and technology understanding, we were able to convert storage deal into a hybrid cloud solution.

Key to customer satisfaction
Krishnamachary Venkat, Director, Data Management Availability, Digital Track

We started in 2004 with a two-member team and today our strength has increased to over 250 members. We started our business with networking infrastructure and security domain and slowly added other business domains like Data Management and Availability (DMA), Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI), cloud and Cisco Business. We have grown from strength by strength to become an end-to-end IT solutions provider.

We have been associated with NetApp for the last 10 years and we have been accredited as a “Platinum Partner”. Twelve per cent to 15 per cent of our topline revenue comes from NetApp.

When it comes to use-cases, the first use case is of one of our leading enterprise MNC customers, who were looking for high performance storage solutions to make their large capacity size file sharing, for which the customer invited both NetApp and Dell-EMC vendors for the head-to-head POC with the same configuration. The customer did an in-depth performance testing for two months and finally concluded to proceed with NetApp due to the performance of the storage, its ruggedness, and its effective scalability options.

The second use case is one of the leading enterprise customers in India, looking for lower capacity storage but with enterprise class for all their branch offices (23+ locations) for doing real time replication to their central data centre. The customer invited the POC with all the leading storage OEMs, which included DELL-EMC, NetApp, HP, Hitachi storage, etc. The POC took six months to finally go with NetApp and its Real Time Replication Global Alliance partner. The size of the project was about US$ 50 million.

NetApp is helping us with good discounts and attractive backend rebates, with 100 per cent satisfactory solution to the customer.

Best in the industry partner program
Uttam Mazumdar, Co-Founder & President, Locuz Enterprise Solutions Ltd

It will be two decades since we started with exclusive focus on core technology infrastructure keeping us in good stead with continuous innovation and in many ways improving value to our customers. We are the largest “High Performance Computing (HPC)” systems and services provider in India and the fact that HPC, cloud and big data are converging to provide great advantage to businesses going digital, we are uniquely positioned to deliver customer success. There is no other company of our size in the space that has engineered six products, delivering extreme value. ClouTor is among one of them enabling hybrid/multi cloud and is validated by NetApp for converged infrastructure.

Our partnership with NetApp is over 14 years long and it has remained the top strategic partner till date. There is no other company like NetApp when it comes to partnering for mutual growth. Some of the finest people work for NetApp, just the way some of the finest technologies always came from their backyard. Each time we reinvented our business, NetApp has always been a part of our journey – be it private cloud with ClouTor which got its validation for converged infrastructure or now with our hybrid/multi cloud approach.

Currently, we see tremendous value in AI/DL data services. We are working along with NetApp and Nvidia to provide an integrated stack for data services for customers, writing and training their models for computer vision or NLP or even CNN (Convolutional Neural Networks). Likewise, data management for hybrid/multi cloud with NetApp combined with our IP is as simple as drag and drop across environments; this is indeed another powerful way our customers are running DevSecOps.

NetApp Partner Program is among the best in the industry from both profitability and managing growth perspective. For us, the most unique experience, among other partnerships is that, they take partner feedback seriously. They organise partner roundtables with their executive leadership, and they hear us out. NetApp cares for investments we make in our business as partner and ensures we get accelerated returns. They provide us with continuous enablement for driving new services and solutions to everchanging customer needs.

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