Brocade Moves Partner Program Toward Convergence, the Cloud and Specialization

Vendor eliminates revenue requirements in favor of service focus, sweetens new incentive program, adds data center specialization, enablement tools.

November 3, 2010

D.H. Kass

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Brocade Communications Systems Inc. on Monday officially incorporated into its Alliance Partner Network (APN) a raft of upgrades and a shift in focus aimed at recognizing and rewarding channel partners that delve into virtualization, convergence and cloud computing technologies.

The vendor, which earlier this year added a network infrastructure specialization, rebates, leads, vertical market-specific deal registration and market development funds to its channel partner program, now has done away with revenue requirements, set up a data center infrastructure specialty, refreshed certifications, launched a back end rebate program and opened up marketing fund usage to partners' discretion.

Behind the changes is a framing of the program to “address dominant trends in the industry—virtualization, convergence and the cloud—and driving the need for core solutions-led selling with our partner base,” said Barbara Spicek, Brocade vice president, worldwide channels.

“The whole program reflects our understanding of a changing marketplace,” she said. “Our focus is on certification and gearing the program towards the enablement of partner skills,” Spicek said. “We believe that it is our responsibility to help partners get their skill sets up.”

Under the new guidelines, partners will be able to advance from one program tier to a higher level and earn associated rewards and benefits through training, attaining certifications and commanding convergence technologies, Spicek said.

“We are addressing an increasing number of our partners making their businesses solutions led,” she said. “Contemplating where they want to be is taking place with all of them—25 percent or more are concretely changing right now.”

Brocade currently lists about 400 partners classified at its Premier and Elite levels and another 2,000 Select members who buy the vendor’s products through distribution, according to Spicek. The lion’s share of the vendor’s APN changes apply to upper level program participants.

“We want our partners to think architecture, service and solutions,” she said. The revamped APN framework mirrors “what I have always talked about—that partners need to be more services- and solutions-led,” Spicek said.

In the broader view, Brocade wants to bolster a group of what Spicek calls its “loyal SAN partners who are extremely interested in building up their skill set,” and interest another group of larger IP partners, “mostly Cisco houses,” she said.

“We want to gain a foothold with these larger IP partners and to do that we must have an attractive, quality-driven partner program,” Spicek said.

New specializations tied to incentive program

Central to the channel program alterations is the addition of a new Data Center Infrastructure Specialization, available immediately, through which partners can widen their expertise in converged data center network design and protocols.

To incent channel partners to achieve specializations, Brocade has tied a new Value Incentive Program (VIP) to attainment levels, offered only to elite-level members.

Brocade elite-tier solution providers accomplishing the new data center infrastructure specialization, the previously added network infrastructure specialty, or early 2011-planned specialties in application delivery and virtualized fabrics, qualify for supplemental financial rewards measured at 1 percent for each, under the VIP.

Attaining all four specializations and meeting growth targets earns elite partners a total back end rebate of 5 percent, the vendor said.

Selected distributors, specifically those meeting minimum revenue requirements, also qualify for rebates under the VIP, earning 2 percent for meeting growth targets and 1 percent each for achieving a reseller recruitment goal and individually-set targets, to a maximum payout of 4 percent.

In an allied move, the vendor has standardized its certification model globally. Of note, it is offering a virtual or web-based course aimed at fast-tracking holders of existing Cisco certifications to its Brocade Certified Network Engineer certificate for a $99 registration fee.

Also, the vendor is allowing channel partner individuals to carry multiple certifications for a company to meet program requirements.

MDF more flexible

Brocade has retrofitted its market development fund into one bucket, halving the percentage accrual rate from 2 percent to 1 percent but freeing up channel partners and distributors to use the money as, and when, they see fit for marketing activities involving customer recruitment, sales enablement, promotion, demo equipment and certification.

The MDF program, which is now geared as OEM-neutral, will be equally applied worldwide, Spicek said.

“It’s very important that we are putting money into free partner education--marketing funding can be used for training,” she said.

Brocade believes that it can win channel partner loyalty with a formula that ties financial backing for education, training, certification and specialization to a lucrative, incentives-based rewards program, Spicek said.

New enablement tools

Brocade also has added a number of partner enablement tools, offered through a Web-based portal.

The Global Partner Locator, available on the Brocade web site in December, 2010, helps end customers find partners; the APN Product Configuration Tool, available in February, 2011, enables partners to configure Brocade solutions and offer quotes to customers; and, the Partner Syndication Tool, offered in March, 2011, allows partners to upload the latest Brocade content at no charge.

In September, Brocade initiated the APN Mobile Application, which provides anytime access to sales tools, program information and updates; in October, it rolled out APN Quick Clips with news and information customized for channel partners; and, in late October it introduced the APN Marketing Resource Center, which provides partners with customized promotional material, communications and demand generation campaigns, some of which can be paid for with MDF.

TAGS: certification,convergence,Brocade,channel partner,specialization

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