Looking forward: EMC’s new channel plans

Leonard Iventosch
VP of American Channel Sales

LAS VEGAS — On Monday, at the opening session of the second annual EMC global partner summit here, EMC global channel chief Gregg Ambulos surprised most of his partner audience (and the journalists covering the event) by making brief references to major pending changes in EMC’s channel organization.

“In January, we will be introducing a newly-branded partner program, and the Velocity name will go away,” Ambulos said.

Key questions about the changes were not detailed — such as whether the changes would go beyond branding and include major programmatic changes, which groups would be included in the new organization, and for that matter, how much of the proposed changes were set in stone and how much was still being worked out. eChannelLine sat down with Leonard Iventosch, EMC’s VP of American Channel Sales, to get answers to these questions.

“Velocity is absolutely being rebranded, and for the right reasons,” Iventosch said.  “It’s time we had all our indirect channels under a single umbrella. Velocity had been in place for 10 years, and we felt it was time to give it a fresh brand.”

Iventosch said that all types of EMC partners, including VARs, OEMs service providers, global alliance partners and ISVs, will all come under the EMC Business Partner brand, which has been decided on as the new name for the partner program.

“What we have been trying to do is be easier for partners to do business with,” Iventosch said, “Being easier to do business with is a complex task, which will be made easier by shaping the program to the partners’ business models.”

Ambulos said January 1 would be the rollout date for the new program. Iventosch indicated  that’s the goal, although since all this is still being reworked, that date is an objective rather than a firm pledge.

“If it’s ready in January, it will be ready,” he said. “If it takes a little longer, it will take a little longer.”

Now you might think that the possibility that the new program  won’t be ready for January means the programmatic changes are more substantive than just a rebranding — and you’d be right.

“I expect there will be programmatic changes as well,” Iventosch said. “At this stage it’s all preliminary, and nothing is set in stone. It’s a work in progress. Almost certainly there will be some significant changes.” Those changes, Iventosch said, would be guided by a constant principle.

“The goal is to continue to provide opportunity and benefits to the partners who make the biggest investments in EMC,” he said.

It seems clear as well, that with EMC stressing the importance of a converged strategy to address the key themes of Cloud, Big Data and Trust, that top partners will be encouraged to develop  practice areas for coverage of some of these areas.

“Today we have a Cloud practice, which is out there, but with nothing formal built around it yet, and I can see a movement to practices around Cloud, Trust, Big Data, and probably a few others,” Iventosch said. “Practice certification will be a combination of sales and technical skills  – and  complementary technology.  This will require even higher levels of commitment to EMC even than current Signature partners, because it requires complementary investments.”

Two key complementary investments are obviously with VMware and Pivotal, and while partners with these separate companies won’t be a part of the new EMC channel program, Iventosch said they expect the other companies to respect EMC’s rules of engagement.

“We are already having conversations with Pivotal where they play in our opportunities, and we are asking them to observe our rules of engagement,” he said.

Iventosch said that with the storage market changing rapidly, and service providers becoming more important, both in EMC’s channel and the market generally, many partners he talks with are concerned where they fit into both of these going forward.

“I’m telling them the way customers buy storage is changing pretty rapidly, but that between 80-95% of storage the next three years will still be purchased for on-prem private clouds. The current model I believe will work for many more years.”

Iventosch said some EMC partners, like a top partner he talked with last night, have now set up cloud services as an option. For those partners who don’t want to do that, at least right now, Iventosch said there are still options.

“I’m telling our own VARs to leverage our Cloud broker program, that if they don’t plan to build Cloud themselves, to build relationships with the service providers and figure out what their role is.”

More co-opetive relationships between partners are also developing do deal with this, Iventosch said.

“That’s something that we can’t  control, but  that we have to encourage peer to peer conversations over this,” he said. “We tell them they have to have a plan. And the plan of many VARs is to be acquired by a larger company.”

Finally, while Ambulos told partners Monday that EMC  will also be creating a brand new partner portal and pushing out information by way of iPad apps, Iventosch said the timeframe for this hasn’t been determined. The EMC portal has, however, been a sore spot for a while, he acknowledged.

“In the almost two years I’ve been in this role, where the priority has been to be easier to do business with, the use of the partner portal has been challenging in that respect,” Iventosch said. “We have made a commitment to do that, to deal with these issues.”

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