Tag Archives: partner

SwiftStack layoffs reflect change in focus to AI, analytics

Object storage specialist SwiftStack laid off employees in sales, marketing and partner relations this month, while shifting its focus to artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analytics use cases.

The San Francisco software vendor originally concentrated on backing up and archiving unstructured data on commodity servers with its commercially supported and enhanced version of open source OpenStack Swift. SwiftStack gradually expanded into new areas over the past eight years. The vendor claims its latest 7.0 product supports clusters that can scale linearly to petabytes of data and support throughput in excess of 100 GB per second.

Seeking to differentiate

Erik Pounds, SwiftStack’s vice president of marketing, said SwiftStack will steer away from use cases such as low-cost, long-term repositories for backup applications, replacements for tape archives, and on-premises alternatives to Amazon S3 or Glacier.

Pounds said “object storage is commoditizing” in those areas.

“These are examples of good uses for object storage, and even SwiftStack, but for us to distinguish ourselves in a crowded field, we need to compete in areas where we have strong product differentiation,” Pounds said. “Tier I technology vendors are aggressively going after these types of opportunities to preserve and grow footprint, and it quickly becomes a race to the bottom.”

Pounds said SwiftStick’s new focus is on “more modern” AI, machine learning and analytics use cases — where customers need to access data across edge, core and cloud environments. That shift in focus required the company to change “outward-facing parts of the organization” in order to stay within operating budgets.

SwiftStack did not disclose the number of employees it laid off. LinkedIn indicates the company has 63 employees, but Pounds confirmed the Dec. 18 layoffs left SwiftStack “shy of 50.” He said the company still has “a healthy sales team with complete regional coverage,” despite the loss of “valued members” of the sales, marketing and partner team.

Pounds stressed that the organizational change “did not negatively affect the product and engineering team”. He said that team received additional resources. He also denied that the cuts will change SwiftStack’s product development work and release schedules.

“We continuously release new versions of SwiftStack on a three-week cadence, so once new functionality is developed and tested, it gets in the hands of our customers quickly,” Pounds said.

Azure support

In mid-December, SwiftStack 1space added support for Microsoft Azure Blob Storage to complement the product’s support for Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage. Pounds said more advanced Azure support would come in January with a SwiftStack 7 update.

SwiftStack 1space creates a single namespace to enable users to access, migrate and search data spanning public and on-premises cloud object systems. A new 1space File Connector extension enables users to access data stored in file systems.

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Intel partner marketplace to drive ecosystem collaboration

Intel has rolled out the Solutions Marketplace in a bid to facilitate collaboration among its global partner ecosystem.

The Intel Solutions Marketplace, launched Wednesday, provides a platform for Intel partners to create virtual storefronts where they can market their businesses and products. According to Intel, partners can use the Solutions Marketplace to browse other partners’ offerings and engage one another for collaborative purposes. The Solutions Marketplace is the latest move by the company in laying the groundwork for the Intel Partner Alliance program, a revamped partner program slated to launch in the second half of 2020.

“We have this ecosystem across our partner program that spans almost the entirety of our industry, and, oftentimes, the level of collaboration needed between two points in that ecosystem — or three points or even four points in that ecosystem — is growing as the complexity of end customer demands … grows, as well. The Intel Solutions Marketplace would be the way that that industry comes together to facilitate that,” said Eric Thompson, Intel general manager of global partner enablement.

Intel built the Solutions Marketplace on its Solutions Directory, a previously established feature of the company’s IoT Solutions Alliance program. The Solutions Directory lets partners post and promote their IoT-related products and solutions, Thompson said.

Given its origins, the Solutions Marketplace is heavily focused on IoT, but Thompson said offerings will expand into other technology areas. He noted that the marketplace also carries Intel Select Solutions — data center-oriented products for running enterprise software applications such as SAP HANA.

At launch, the Solutions Marketplace has approximately 4,600 unique offerings from about 1,000 Intel partners, Thompson said.

Making partner-to-partner collaborations easier

Other vendors, such as IBM, have recently made efforts to facilitate the partner matchmaking process within their complex channel ecosystems. There are a number of factors driving the need for partner-to-partner collaborations.

Thompson said the Intel partner ecosystem ranges from ODMs, OEMs and ISVs to systems and solutions integrators, services providers and cloud service providers. Customer demand for advanced IT solutions increasingly requires channel firms to combine their skill sets and expertise in joint engagements.

When Intel designed the Solutions Marketplace, the company sought partner feedback on the challenges typically involved in collaborations, Thompson said. Intel partners cited issues such as finding the right companies to connect with and identifying the right people in those companies to contact. “Our intent was to build features into the marketplace to help solve some of those challenges with collaboration,” he noted.

Each virtual storefront lets an Intel partner display a listing of its offerings as well as a detailed profile of its business and targeted industries, focus areas and geographic markets. Partners can be contacted by potential collaborators directly through the storefronts. Additionally, a dashboard gives partners insight into user visits to their storefronts, lead management functions and reporting on lead statistics, Thompson said.

With the Solutions Marketplace launched, Thompson noted that Intel will also continue to host face-to-face partner matchmaking events where partners can learn about one another’s companies and forge alliances.

Intel’s vision for the Solutions Marketplace is to also extend beyond partner-to-partner collaboration. The company aims to drive end customers to the Solutions Marketplace — for example, by shepherding customers to the platform from the Intel.com website, Thompson said. “We see this as a good opportunity for us to help connect end customers … to partners across that variety of solution spaces,” he said.

Other news

  • Rackspace, a cloud and managed service provider, augmented its Service Blocks portfolio of packaged services for cloud environments. The portfolio now includes Container Services Journey, a Service Block to help customers develop container strategies and containerized apps; Hybrid Transformation with VMware Cloud on AWS, which offers tools and expertise for transitioning to hybrid cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS; and Data Modernization, aimed at strengthening customers’ analytics processes, Rackspace said. Rackspace this week also closed its acquisition of Onica, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner and AWS Managed Service Provider.
  • IT management software vendor SolarWinds released the latest version of its N-central remote management and monitoring tool. N-central 12.2 adds network topology mapping capabilities, as well as features for disk encryption, automation and patching, SolarWinds said.
  • NTT Data, an IT services provider based in Tokyo, will resell GoodData’s analytics platform under a new agreement between the companies. NTT Data will also use GoodData’s technology in its iQuattro industrial IoT platform.
  • NTT Data Services, a Plano, Texas, division of NTT Data Corp., signed a definitive agreement to acquire Flux7, an IT services provider and AWS Premier Consulting Partner. Flux7’s expertise includes cloud implementation and migration, automation, and DevOps consulting services, according to NTT Data.
  • Cost and security are key barriers impeding SMBs’ cloud migration, an Insight Enterprises survey found. Fifty-six of the 408 SMB IT decision-maker respondents cited cloud costs as an obstacle, while 50% of those polled identified security requirements. In other findings, the Insight report said 95% of respondents have either implemented or plan to implement within the next year digital transformation initiatives, but 49% rate integrating new technology with legacy systems as very or extremely challenging.
  • Cloud managed service provider Faction introduced a free educational series for companies adopting VMware Cloud on AWS. Dubbed “6-Step Blueprint for the Success,” the program offers business and technical best practices.
  • MSP360, formerly CloudBerry Lab, rolled out macOS and iOS releases of MSP360 Remote Assistant, a freeware remote access and control offering. The Lewes, Del., company said the Apple-oriented releases will make it easier for MSPs to support customers from MacOS computers as well as iOS and iPadOS devices.
  • InterVision, an IT services provider with headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., and St. Louis, said it has obtained Premier Consulting Partner status within the AWS Partner Network.
  • Wipro, an IT consulting and business process services company, has unveiled cloud Security Operations Center (SOC) services using Microsoft Azure Sentinel. Azure Sentinel is a security information event management offering. Wipro will provide managed cloud SOC services with integrated AI and orchestration capabilities in light of the Microsoft relationship. Wipro will also use its HOLMES AI platform to measure risk factors against compliance standards, according to the company.
  • CloudCheckr, a cloud management platform provider, rolled out a global partner enablement program. The Business Partner Program offers business expertise, sales enablement tools and cloud technology to support MSPs and resellers building cloud service practices, CloudCheckr said.
  • Coronet, a small business data breach platform provider, is partnering with Coalition, a cyber insurance provider for SMBs. The arrangement lets Coronet’s customers obtain Coalition’s cyber insurance products.
  • Identity services provider GlobalSign has signed up Impression, a Johannesburg, South Africa-based solutions provider, to its Certified Regional Partner program.
  • The Internet of Things Security Services Association (IoTSSA) named Robin Miller as its director of channel. Miller will oversee IoTSSA’s industry engagement as the organization develops cybersecurity education resources for MSPs and managed security service providers, IoTSS said.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

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SAP partner program strives for long-term relationship with customers

The SAP partner program has undergone a transformation that the company believes makes it more relevant for today’s business and technology environment.

Partners have played a significant role in building the SAP ecosystem by reselling SAP products, providing strategic consulting, system design, application integration and other services. In the on-premises world, partners’ main focus was on selling and implementing SAP systems. However, as SAP’s product portfolio has broadened and the cloud has become critical to SAP’s future, the role of the SAP partner program is shifting away from sales to “customer success.”

SAP still wants its partners to sell SAP products, but in the cloud-centric world, it is pushing them to also build successful applications for customers and to continue that relationship long after an implementation. The new partner model is needed to drive the intelligent enterprise, which SAP defines as an organization that uses next-generation technology to transform processes and business models.

In this Q&A, Karl Fahrbach, SAP chief partner officer, discusses the recent changes in the SAP partner program and its priorities going forward. In March, SAP’s board of directors appointed Fahrbach as SAP’s first chief partner officer, a role designed to formalize SAP’s intentions to be a partner-focused company.

Why has the SAP partner program changed its focus from sales and implementation to ‘customer success?’

Karl Fahrbach: The main model for the partners was implementation, but things have changed a lot in the past 10 years at SAP. We have acquired many companies and have a different vision. We don’t just have one ERP product, we now have the intelligent enterprise with ERP at the core, and we have line-of-business solutions that we run on top of the SAP Cloud Platform.

Karl FahrbachKarl Fahrbach

All of this means that the opportunities for partners have changed. A study we did with IDC said the partner economy will double in the next five years from $100 billion to $200 billion because SAP offers a much bigger portfolio now … but we questioned if our partner program was ready to support that growth and change. So we have created a new, next generation partnering initiative that focuses on making sure that our partners have better access to innovation, a better experience and better economics to be profitable in this new reality.

What does the next generation partner initiative do differently than previous initiatives?

Fahrbach: We still have the PartnerEdge program, where we put the partners in boxes — SIs [systems integrators], VARs [value-added resellers], ISVs [independent software vendors] or startups. But in this new next generation evolution, we’re moving away from putting partners in boxes and looking more at the value that the partner adds to the customer. The new initiative looks at the customer lifecycle and the value that the partner adds in each of those steps. Before, we looked at partners from a sales cycle perspective, which helped us to sell and helped us implement what we sold, but then it stopped. Now in the cloud, the most relevant [key performance indicator] that we have is looking at customer success. 

Will the next generation partner initiative help smaller partners that are often the leaders in innovation?

Fahrbach: If you look at yesterday’s program, the best partner was the one that sold the most. Now we want to look not only at the quantity of the business, but the quality. One big change in the new partner program is that it will benefit the smaller firms. If you have a small boutique partner that does a fantastic job helping customers with fast adoption of SAP products, we want to reward it accordingly, even if it’s not selling the products. In the past, this partner was maybe not as relevant for us because it wasn’t selling, but now we’re looking at different metrics.

How are you tracking these new metrics?

Fahrbach: We’ve changed the way that we get feedback from partners, and we’ve also established a partner advisory council, with everyone from the big SIs to small boutique partners. We’re working on ways to provide a better partner experience and better access to innovation technologies.

Why did the SAP board create the role of chief partner officer, which is fairly unique in the software industry?

Fahrbach: The board considered the partner business as something that was going to be the innovation driver for SAP. If you look at SAP in the last 10 years, we have developed many innovative products. But when you look at the speed of innovation, we need to do something different to keep up with this pace without adding more developers. So we decided the key driver for innovation will be to work with partners. The board realized this and decided that we need to double down on the partner focus in the ecosystem. So they created the role of chief partner officer. It sends a very strong message to the market that we are a partner-led company, and we want the partners to be successful.

Will this new partner model continue given the changes in the SAP board and executive leadership this year?

Fahrbach: Yes, this will continue and the board is committed to the partner business. Both of the co-CEOs, Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein, really care about the partner business and want to make sure that the partners contribute even more to the SAP business. Adaire Fox-Martin [head of SAP global customer operations], who I report to on the board, runs the partner business and the customer business, and she really cares as well about the partner business. Even though there have been changes, we see more commitment in the board for the partner business. It’s good to change the mindset and that’s something that needs to happen as well in SAP. Ten years ago we were direct, and would leverage the partners to implement systems or serve markets that were new for us or we couldn’t really touch, like the SME segment. Now the partner business is where the partner will be always involved in creating value for the customer. That’s the mindset that we’re trying to shift to.

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Microsoft Partner Network licensing changes put channel on alert

Pending Microsoft Partner Network policy changes affecting product licensing have alarmed some partners, with more than 5,000 people signing a petition to register their disapproval.

A key area of contention is Microsoft’s plan to eliminate the internal use rights (IUR) association with product licenses included in Microsoft Action Pack and those included with a competency. Action Pack gives partners access to product licenses and technical enablement services, through which they can create applications and develop service offerings. Microsoft positions Action Pack, which ranges from OSes to business applications, as a way for new MPN members to get started. Competencies are business specializations in areas such as cloud business applications and data analytics.

The revised IUR association policy will compel Microsoft partners to pay for licenses they have been using in-house under the current Microsoft Partner Network membership terms. The new policy goes into effect July 1, 2020.

Paul Katz, president and chief software architect at EfficiencyNext, a software developer in Washington, D.C., said the policy change will cause the company to purchase five Office 365 Enterprise E3 seats. In addition, EfficiencyNext stands to lose the Microsoft Azure credits the company uses to run its website, although Katz said the policy change’s effect on the Azure benefit is somewhat ambiguous at this point. The licensing fees coupled with the potential loss of Azure credits would result in an annual net cost of about $2,400 a year, he added.

“That’s a thorn in the side, but it doesn’t change our world,” Katz said.

The stakes are much higher, he said, for larger partners with more licenses they will need to pay for. A partner with 100 Office 365 E3 licenses, for example, would need to shell out $24,000 annually, based on the $20 per user, per month seat fee.

Charles WeaverCharles Weaver

Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance, an association representing managed service providers (MSPs), said he found out about the Microsoft policy change when a board member sent him the online petition. “It’s going to sting most of them,” he said of the licensing shift’s effect on service providers. “It is probably not going to be received well by the rank-and-file MSPs.”

The partner petition, posted on Change.org, stated Microsoft’s policies represent unfair treatment, noting partners “have been so loyal to the Microsoft business.” Microsoft couldn’t be reached for comment.

Microsoft Partner Network: Policy consequences

Katz advised partners to “get licensed up” in light of the IUR change, noting that Microsoft has been aggressive in the past with software asset management engagements.

Weaver, however, said he hopes that won’t be the case.

“I can’t think of anything more destructive to the relationship between Microsoft and the channel than that,” he said, noting the audits software vendors pursue tend to target large customers, where millions of dollars are at stake.

People don’t want to come to terms with the fact that we are resellers and we don’t, in any way, shape or form, control the products.
Stanley LouissaintPresident, Fluid Designs Inc.

In addition to causing some partners to incur higher licensing costs, the Microsoft IUR policy shift could also hinder partners’ use-what-you-sell strategies. Resellers and service providers that use a vendor’s products to help run their business gain technology experience, which they can transfer to end customers when deploying those products.

Katz said “dogfooding” — as in, eating one’s own dog food — is the best way to test products, especially for companies that can’t afford to set up a separate test environment.

But the restriction on IUR would discourage this approach and could cause Microsoft to miss out on opportunities down the road.

Weaver pointed to a potential unintended consequence of Microsoft’s action: “They stop the freeloading of MSPs from using their software, as they look at it, and they lose potentially thousands of MSPs who no longer try that stuff out and no longer have access to it and may go to different vendors and different solutions.”

A part of doing business

Stanley LouissaintStanley Louissaint

Stanley Louissaint, president of Fluid Designs Inc., an IT services provider in Union, N.J., said the MPN policy changes don’t affect his company but noted the unease among partners. Louissaint suggested changes in vendor policies are simply part of doing business as a channel partner.

“People don’t want to come to terms with the fact that we are resellers and we don’t, in any way, shape or form, control the products,” he said. “If [Microsoft] changes how they want to deal with us, it is what it is.”

Louissaint said the bottom line is Microsoft wants partners to become paying customers when using the vendor’s products to run their businesses. As for creating test beds to assess products, channel partners still can download software on a trial basis — for up to 180 days, in some cases, he added.

Jeff Aden, executive vice president of marketing and business development at 2nd Watch, a Seattle MSP, said the new policy “is not going to change what we do” unless there is an unforeseen effect. 2nd Watch is a Microsoft Gold partner and an AWS Premier Consulting Partner.

EfficiencyNext’s Katz said the licensing changes don’t mean Microsoft is greedy. He noted Windows Insider members can download preview versions of Windows for free, and there is a community version of Visual Studio that is free for up to five users in nonenterprise organizations.

“They are still a great company, and we are still happy to be working with them,” he said.

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Microsoft announces investments to broaden opportunities for partners – Stories

Ahead of Microsoft Inspire, company shares how it is tuning partner investments for the cloud era, including updates to Teams, Dynamics 365, Azure

REDMOND, Wash. — July 11, 2019 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. announced new investments in technologies and programs designed to support its partner ecosystem. The investments are aimed at helping optimize Microsoft’s partner engagement for the cloud era.

“Customers and partners alike continue to move to the cloud and accelerate their digital transformation, leading us to new and different levels of partnership,” said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner group. “Our portfolio of programs, offers and resources for companies partnering with Microsoft is transforming to help them capitalize on this opportunity.”

The following are some highlights of the news announced today, with more details available here.

Investments in products and programs

  • Microsoft Teams extensions and adoption. Just two years after its launch, Teams now has 13 million daily active users and 19 million weekly active users. The company also announced new features in Microsoft Teams for every worker —including new ways to support healthcare organizations and firstline workers. Additional new partner integrations include support for contact centers, compliance recording and cloud solution providers.
  • Dynamics 365 updates. The company announced significant updates to the Dynamics 365 Nonprofit Accelerator and two new integrations for Dynamics 365 that address the automotive and financial services industries. In addition, the Business Applications ISV Connect program is generally available, with new development tools and guidance, marketplace resources, joint field engagement processes and go-to-market support.
  • Introducing Azure Lighthouse. Azure Lighthouse gives partners a single control plane to view and manage Azure at scale across all their customers. This provides a better managed Azure experience with higher automation and efficiency, resulting in greater visibility and security for customers. This marks the first time Microsoft has architected a solution at this scale, with partners and for partners.
  • Azure Migration Program. The new Azure Migration Program (AMP) helps customers accelerate their migration to Azure. AMP offers proactive advice and tools to help mitigate risks and address common issues associated with moving workloads to the cloud.

Broadening partner opportunity

Since the inception of Microsoft’s co-sell program 24 months ago, the program has seen $9.5 billion in annual contracted partner revenue. The investments announced this week are designed to build on that opportunity:

  • General availability of the Microsoft Security competency. This new competency allows partners to market their expertise and provides access to a range of benefits designed to enable business growth and profitability.
  • Five advanced specializations. These include Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Microsoft Azure, Linux and Open Source Databases Migration to Microsoft Azure, Data Warehouse Migration to Microsoft Azure, Modernization of Web Applications in Microsoft Azure, and Kubernetes on Microsoft Azure.
  • New advancements in marketplace. Additional pricing models, a rewards program and a new route to market are rolling out in July for companies that publish transactable offers in Microsoft’s expanded commercial marketplace. The pricing models include monthly and annual SaaS billing, flexible, custom-metered billing options, standard contracts, and free SaaS trials that convert to paid engagements.

About Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire provides Microsoft’s partner community with access to key marketing and business strategies, leadership, and information regarding specific customer solutions designed to help partners succeed in the marketplace. Along with informative learning opportunities covering sales, marketing, services, and technology, Microsoft Inspire is an ideal setting for partners to garner valuable knowledge from their peers and from Microsoft. More information can be found at https://partner.microsoft.com/en-us/inspire.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

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Algolia partners with integrators, digital agencies

Algolia, which offers search technology for websites and mobile apps, has launched a partner program targeting systems integrators, consultants, digital agencies and e-commerce platforms. Algolia partners include Accenture Interactive’s Altima business unit, digital agency Wunderman and e-commerce platforms Magento and Shopify.

At launch, the Algolia Partner Program has 20 certified partners. The program aims to create an ecosystem of Algolia partners that can help enterprises customize Algolia search technology, according to the company.

The program’s launch follows rising interest among customers in working with partners, said Alexandre Popp, director of channels and alliances at Algolia.

“Over the past year, we saw increasing demand from enterprises to leverage the support of partners like systems integrators, consultants and agencies,” Popp said. “So we made the decision to dedicate resources to building out partner engineering, account management, and marketing teams to support our partners in the field and meet customer demand.”

The partner program is part of the company’s enterprise customer initiative.

Alexandre Popp, director of channels and alliances at AlgoliaAlexandre Popp

“Our motion to move upmarket comes with partners and multinational brands purchasing our product in tandem with partner solutions, and deployed with consulting firms’ team[s],” Popp said. He noted the program’s objective is to support partners as they “build or sell digital products” that embed Algolia.

Algolia’s partner program offers technical enablement and certification; go-to-market and sales enablement; and marketing support, including co-marketing events, webinars and campaigns. The company, founded in 2012, said it has more than 5,700 customers.

Cloud service providers launch offerings

Cloud service providers Faction and 2nd Watch rolled out new services this week.

Over the past year, we saw increasing demand from enterprises to leverage the support of partners like systems integrators, consultants and agencies.
Alexandre Poppdirector of channels and alliances, Algolia

Faction, a Denver company that focuses on multi-cloud services, said it is working with VMware to provide cloud-attached storage for VMware Cloud on AWS deployments. Faction said its Cloud Control Volumes offering provides a scalable storage platform for VMware Cloud on AWS customers who need more storage capacity.

Meanwhile, 2nd Watch, a managed service provider based in Seattle, said its Cloud Migration Cost Assessment service aims to help large and midmarket firms get a handle on the cost benefits of moving on-premises IT infrastructure to the cloud. The cloud migration assessment involves a six-week engagement in which 2nd Watch cloud personnel evaluate a customer’s IT estate and “map current resources to the most cost-effective cloud solution,” according to the company.

Other news

  • Silver Peak launched its Authorized Deployment Partner (ADP) Program, which will train, certify and authorize a group of services partners. Partners receiving authorization are deemed capable of managing the design, deployment and management of the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect SD-WAN offering. Program participants include Cavell Group, FireOwls Corp., Geode Networks, Traversa Solutions and Velociti.
  • Arcserve, a data backup and availability vendor based in Minneapolis, unveiled a new channel program dubbed Arcserve Accelerate. The program targets North American MSPs, value-added resellers, large-account resellers and original equipment manufacturers. Program features include re-developed e-learning courses, partner certification, individual and corporate SPIFs, marketing development funds and access to cloud-native products with support for private and public clouds such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, according to Arcserve.
  • Matrix Integration, an IT infrastructure company in Kentucky and Indiana, has opened its new Louisville regional office. The company said the expansion provides a hub for modernizing the IT infrastructure of public and private sector entities in the Louisville area.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.

Digital marketing partnerships key to vendors’ channel strategies

For some vendors, the key to a thriving channel ecosystem means engaging and supporting a variety of partner types, including digital marketing partnerships.

Digital marketing organizations were among the earliest firms to recognize the IT budgets for marketing shifting from the purview of customers’ IT departments to marketing executives. Vendors took note of the agencies’ influence and unique reach within customer organizations. While on the surface, digital marketing agencies didn’t appear to be direct competition for traditional channel partners, some industry watchers asserted the agencies did in fact pose a potential threat. For example, agencies working on digital initiatives with a client’s marketing department could hypothetically annex the client’s infrastructure decisions, cutting channel partners out from those deals.

Vendors, however, view their digital marketing partnerships as an important subgroup of their overall partner ecosystems that, if anything, is complementary to a traditional channel base.

Progress cites potential partner synergies

Progress Software, an application development and deployment software vendor, said it sees an opportunity for digital marketing agencies to partner up with traditional channel firms.

Progress began to pursue digital marketing partnerships following its acquisition of app development vendor Telerik in 2014, said Matthew Gharegozlou, vice president of sales at Progress. The Telerik buyout brought with it Sitefinity, a content management system, as well as digital marketing agencies that had been working with the product.

Matthew Gharegozlou, vice president of sales, Progress SoftwareMatthew Gharegozlou

“The acquisition of Telerik and Sitefinity gave us the ability to go after these relationships,” Gharegozlou said.

He noted that about 65% of Progress’ content management business is now derived from channel partners. About 80% of those partners are digital marketing agencies.

Progress’ traditional partners typically share a few traits: They work in the app development space, deal with customers’ IT departments and lack skill sets related to digital experience and digital marketing. “So far, we haven’t had any conflict” between traditional and agency partners, he said, because “the bulk of the experience needed on the digital side, our traditional partners don’t have it.”

Traditional Progress partners also usually have expertise in vertical industries, he said, adding that most are based in markets such as financial services, government, healthcare and education. “Our traditional partners are extremely knowledgeable” and have strong relationships in their vertical spaces, he said.

Because of traditional partners’ strengths, Gharegozlou said Progress looks to pair them up with digital marketing agencies for certain leads. Combining the expertise in back-end work and vertical markets with agencies’ expertise in web development and related technologies can produce compelling offerings. 

But while optimistic about these synergies, he recognized that a “full-service” digital marketing agency, which can do both the front-end and back-end work for a customer, diminishes the value that traditional partners may offer. In this sense, full-service agencies may be preferable to customers “because they can do the entire project,” he said.

Salesforce supports acquisition trend

For Salesforce, digital marketing partnerships play a critical role in advancing its marketing platform.

Stephane Viallet, vice president of global alliances, agencies, at SalesforceStephane Viallet

Salesforce has signed numerous digital marketing agencies over the last six years, spurred by several acquisitions to build out its business-to-commercial and marketing portfolio, said Stephane Viallet, vice president of global alliances, agencies, at Salesforce. Salesforce’s acquisitions have included digital marketing software company ExactTarget in 2013, as well as e-commerce provider Demandware and data management platform Krux in 2016. Viallet also cited Salesforce’s alliance with Google as a driver behind the company’s growing digital marketing agency partnerships.

“Partners, including digital marketing agencies, are the lifeblood of Salesforce, extending our platform in new and exciting ways and fueling our growth,” Viallet said in an email. He said Salesforce and its partners are pursuing opportunities created by “our ability to merge media, adtech and martech to execute on a whole new way for brands to connect with customers.”

Digital marketing organizations use Salesforce’s products such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to offer “transformative digital experience that enable clients to meet consumer expectations,” he noted.

I think often agencies can help us get into areas of the business or with clients that we may not thoroughly be in today.
Adrianna Bustamantedirector of digital sales and alliances, Rackspace

In addition to having digital marketing and advertising skills, Viallet said Salesforce seeks partners that understand “the importance of merging data, technology and creativity” to deliver customer experience strategies.

Viallet also pointed to a trend among digital marketing organizations acquiring Salesforce practices, such as Publicis.Sapient’s 2016 buyout of Vertiba, a Gold-level Salesforce Consulting partner.

Other notable acquisitions have included the following:

  • Wunderman bought a majority stake in Salesforce consultancy Pierry Inc. in September 2017.
  • Dentsu Aegis purchased Swiss digital marketing company Blue-Infinity in January 2017.
  • MRM//McCann acquired e-commerce service provider Optaros in December 2014.

“Digital marketing agencies haven’t just built Salesforce practices around the globe organically — they’ve been acquiring them as well,” he said. “Salesforce supports these collaborations as we work to provide our partners with an edge that enables them to exceed customers’ expectations.”

Rackspace: Little overlap between the channels

Managed cloud provider Rackspace, meanwhile, looks at digital marketing partnerships differently: Traditional channel firms and digital marketing agencies can do business with the same customers without necessarily encroaching on each other’s turf.

Rackspace’s alliances with digital marketing agencies stem from its digital services practice. Launched in 2014, Rackspace Digital provides application and infrastructure hosting for web content management systems, e-commerce products, and mobile and critical application services. Adrianna Bustamante, Rackspace’s director of digital sales and alliances, noted that the company has formally developed strategic digital marketing partnerships since about 2010.

Adrianna Bustamante, director of digital sales and alliances, RackspaceAdrianna Bustamante

“I think often agencies can help us get into areas of the business or with clients that we may not thoroughly be in today,” Bustamante said.That’s partly because digital marketing organizations tend to target a customer’s marketing department — versus the IT department.

“Nowadays … your traditional agencies have to be more digitally focused. … But still their main focus is very much around the consulting, the service and the creative — potentially integration and development,” Bustamante said.

She noted that the line between digital marketing organizations and systems integrators are blurring. Digital marketing organizations now look a lot more like systems integrators, while systems integrators “look a lot more like agencies,” she said.

Rackspace works with its agency partners in reseller and referral models. The company offers enablement resources for creating “sticky engagements for their customers and successful projects,” she said, while Rackspace focuses on the back end to ensure their projects meet scale, security and compliance requirements.

“We are heavily focused on trying to … accelerate now in certain verticals and certain segments, now in midmarket and enterprise. We can form a strong partnership when the agency realizes and understands that we are that trusted partner for them,” she said.

Rackspace generally doesn’t see any tension between its traditional and digital marketing partnerships, according to Bustamante.

“There might be several partners that we might have within … a certain customer that we are working with, but they might be working on five different projects, 20 different workloads, across three different business units,” she said.

Microsoft Inspire 2018

Inspire 2018: Opening doors for partner innovation, growth and differentiation

Organizations around the world are undergoing transformation fueled by cloud, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and the Internet of Things. These technologies are helping businesses and society reach new heights – retail is becoming more personal, banking is becoming more seamless, and healthcare is becoming more predictive and preventive.

At the heart of these incredible stories of transformation – and more – are Microsoft partners. The Microsoft partner ecosystem is a group of hundreds of thousands of organizations driving positive, global impact. Building everything from line-of-business apps to industry-specific solutions on Dynamics 365 to gaming experiences, these companies are a natural extension of the team at Microsoft, delivering cutting-edge technology to millions of customers.

Read more

Digital transformation process: Align business and IT, shake legacy

At the Strongbow Consulting Group, founder and managing partner Cathy Horst Forsyth and her team help large enterprises digitally transform — specifically around network and infrastructure. From her experience with Fortune 500 companies, legacy applications and systems and misalignment of technology and business strategies can cause significant setbacks in the digital transformation process.

In this SearchCIO interview from the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Horst Forsyth details the trends and challenges that she’s seeing in enterprises that are going through the digital transformation process and what’s needed to be successful.

Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What parts of the enterprise are leading the charge in the digital transformation process?

Cathy Horst Forsyth: You see it all on the edges of the business where we have lines of business working directly with their customers, with their individual goals. I think where we see digital transformation being most progressive and most successful is when those lines of business — at the front end of the business — are working closely with their technology partners. What doesn’t seem to work well, or at least what can fall back and have negative consequences is when the lines of business are transforming and driving digital transformation that does not align with a corporate strategy and isn’t compliant with [an organization’s] technology strategy. So, where we see the most success, whether it’s marketing, sales or any particular functional area within the firm, is really that alignment with the business executive and the technology team to make sure the execution is both successful and compliant with the overall goals of the organization.

What parts of the enterprise are less far along in the digital transformation process?

You really can’t underestimate the [extent to which] legacy infrastructure systems and applications tether large companies down.
Cathy Horst Forsythfounder and managing partner, Strongbow Consulting Group

Horst Forsyth: Again, it’s kind of hard to generalize from my perspective. I can’t say one department or function is necessarily behind. But I would say that with organizations that are tethered to legacy applications, legacy infrastructure or legacy systems, it’s very difficult to dig themselves out of that. It’s probably not for lack of wanting to transform digitally, but you really can’t underestimate the [extent to which] legacy infrastructure systems and applications tether large companies down. Again, that’s one of the reasons [Strongbow] focuses specifically on the largest of enterprises. It is a lot easier to start ‘greenfield’ and to drive innovation when you haven’t been a classic Fortune 500 company for the past 50 or 100 years. Even though it’s about culture, leadership and many other things, the legacy infrastructure really can be an impediment. Where there are sunk costs or where it’s difficult to even understand where that infrastructure resides — which is an issue at times — we really see those organizations being hindered.

What kinds of strategies are effective in getting the entire enterprise to the same level of digital prowess?

Horst Forsyth: Once again, I go back to the top executives and the executive committee and [having the ability to] really understand and articulate business strategies. So, what are we trying to accomplish? Why are we trying to accomplish it? Anything can be framed in terms of opportunity or threat. Having everyone understand that simplistic business strategy is definitely a forerunner to then understanding how to leverage technology and achieving [digital transformation]. I think that, to some extent, technology strategy should be driven across the business — including on the front lines — but it needs to be monitored so that it’s consistent and compliant with corporate standards. And I think that the executives need to monitor and keep track of what’s going on, but allow it to go on and grow in a flexible fashion.

Unitrends revamps enterprise backup solutions program in wake of merger

Enterprise backup solutions company Unitrends has revamped its partner program following its merger with Kaseya, a provider of management software for managed service providers.

The Kaseya-Unitrends merger, revealed in May, yielded a portfolio spanning remote monitoring and management, endpoint management, network monitoring and management, professional services automation, security, and enterprise backup solutions. According to Unitrends, which runs as an independent company inside Kaseya, the redesigned channel program aims to enhance partner benefits and support for legacy Unitrends partners, while tapping into the Kaseya MSP community.

The redesigned program also reflects the shift away from Unitrends’ previous volume-based channel strategy in which the vendor sought to “recruit a large number of partners, large and small, across various geographies,” said Dante Gordon, senior director of channel marketing at Unitrends, based in Burlington, Mass.

“It is not a volume play anymore. We are not looking at adding partners for the sake of adding numbers,” he added. “A key tenet of the program is ensuring that we are delivering one of the most profitable programs in our industry for partners, and one of the ways we do that is ensuring we are not saturating the market … and eroding margins.”

The Unitrends channel program now features a four-tiered membership structure of Authorized, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels, offering incremental discounts and incentives, among other benefits.

“What we have done with the new program is we have established partner segmentation and … tiers based on partners’ investment and commitment to building a practice around Unitrends,” Gordon said.

Program benefits include a proposal-based market development funds (MDF) program.

“Unlike a lot of vendors, we don’t allocate MDF based on a percent of bookings or revenue. … Any partner in our Gold and Platinum tiers has the ability to submit a proposal for MDF dollars that they want to apply to a particular marketing campaign.”

Unitrends’ partners can also tap a new cloud-based partner portal containing a library of marketing materials, such as packaged campaigns that partners can white label. Additionally, Unitrends said it will soon roll out a marketing automation service for email campaigns.

As for Kaseya MSP partners, Unitrends said it will extend Gold-level program benefits to Kaseya MSP partners for a limited time. Those benefits include access to MDF, dedicated channel managers and lead referrals.

Gordon said Kaseya MSP partners, which tend to target the small and medium-sized business space, are complementary to Unitrends’ midmarket focus. He noted that he also sees the merger as an opportunity for Unitrends’ traditional resellers to use Kaseya’s offerings to incorporate managed services into their businesses.

Other news

  • Winxnet Inc., an IT consulting and outsourcing firm based in Portland, Maine, has merged with K&R Network Solutions, a San Diego-based managed IT services provider. The companies said the combination will create a coast-to-coast MSP company. The deal follows a strategic alliance between the companies that was announced in January 2018. The Winxnet-K&R merger continues a trend of mergers and acquisitions in the IT services industry. Other recent transactions, such as the Green House Data merger with Infront Consulting Group Ltd., were also motivated by geographic reach.
  • In other financial news, Primepulse SE, an investment holding group based in Munich, has invested in Unify Square, a cloud managed services provider for Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. The funding round is roughly $10 million, according to Unify Square, which is based in Bellevue, Wash.
  • Tech Mahindra, a consulting and digital transformation services provider, is partnering with LIFARS LLC, a cybersecurity digital forensics and incident response The companies plan to combine Tech Mahindra’s security operations center offering with LIFARS incident response service for their customers.
  • SolarWinds MSP, an IT service management solution provider targeting service providers, unveiled MSP Institute, a training and tips playbook for MSPs. The playbook will include business, sales, marketing and technical tracks.

Market Share is a news roundup published every Friday.