Red Hat Fortifies Channel Partner Program

Open source software developer redesigns program to encourage collaboration between partners.

September 11, 2009

D.H. Kass

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Open source software developer Red Hat Inc., riding a six-fold uptick in partner membership, recently bolstered its channel program by adding a new top tier, three specializations and a raft of sales, marketing and technical benefits available to qualified participants.

Company officials said that the program redesign was prompted by the vendor’s desire for its partner community—which has swelled from 250 members to some 1,500 in the past three years—to collaborate with one another to build innovative solutions.

By adding a Premier Business Partner designation to its existing mid-level Advanced Business Partner and entry-point Red Hat Ready Partner categories, the vendor is providing a “deeper level of program engagement,” said Roger Egan, Red Hat vice president of North American channel sales. “The reseller business around Red Hat is growing rapidly because customers are demanding trusted open source solutions to carve costs out of their datacenters.”

The Premier level offers channel partners the chance to form a tighter bond with Red Hat by providing more sales training, leads, demand generation, market development funds, sales promotions and technical support. In particular, Premier partners gain certain benefits not afforded to other partners including dedicated contacts for pre-sales and marketing, reimbursement for an on-site Red Hat product champion and business assistance from the vendor’s executive team.

The company also has made its deal registration program available to partners at all three levels.

Red Hat’s channel program upgrade includes three new core specializations—infrastructure, middleware and virtualization—which partners must leverage to move up to higher levels in the program. The vendor also offers another option, called a featured specialization, for partners that have developed a unique solution using Red Hat technology.

Egan said that the enhanced program benefits and specializations built into the partner program are intended to “help our partners grow their open source practice.”

Spelling out specializations

The company said that the infrastructure specialization is aimed at partners selling the vendor’s infrastructure solutions, including Enterprise Linux, Enterprise Linux Advanced, Network Satellite, Global File System, Cluster Suite and MRG. Partners must maintain at least two sales certified employees and one certified technician.

The middleware specialization is for partners working with the vendor’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware solutions, including Enterprise Application Platform, BRMS, Operations Network, Developer Studio, SOA Platform and Data Services. Partners must have at least two certified middleware sales personnel and one JBoss administrator on staff.

The virtualization specialization is intended for partners with clear sales and technical knowledge in the vendor’s virtualization offerings. Partners must maintain two certified sales employees and one virtualization-focused certified engineer.

According to company literature, channel partners at the Premier level must hold two core specializations. Those at the Advanced level must maintain at least one core specialization. No specializations are required of Ready partners. For every $2 million in incremental Red Hat revenue, partners must achieve one additional core specialization.

Red Hat officials said that with channel sales climbing to nearly 60 percent of the vendor’s business, investment in its partner program is critical to its long-term prospects. Earlier this year, the company eased the way for channel growth by aligning its sales force with channels, setting rules of engagement and detailing partner metrics.

The company has said that stronger sales through channel partners ultimately will come from gaining a bigger slice of the small- to medium-sized business segment and the mid-market.

One Red Hat channel partner said that the vendor’s program improvements are important because current economic conditions have induced new market opportunities, specifically from customers seeking lower costs through open source solutions.

“Some of our clients are looking to use open source as a cost effective option,” said James E. Geis, director of solutions development at Forsythe, a Skokie, Ill.-based IT infrastructure solutions provider. “We are pleased to see Red Hat responding to this demand.”

TAGS: open source,Linux,services,Red Hat,channel program

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