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Pure Storage issues demand for partner commitment

The vendor has cut the ribbon on a fresh partner programme and revealed an ultimatum for partners

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: Getting storage right

Pure Storage last week announced a series of changes to its go-to-market strategy that highlight the all-flash vendor’s efforts to secure more commitment from its channel partners.

Speaking at the Pure Storage Partner Forum in San Francisco, the firm’s VP of global channel chief, Michael Sotnick, announced a new partner programme that rewards their investment in building a Pure technology practice.

The vendor is switching from a three-tier programme structure to just two, replacing its Silver, Gold and Platinum partner tiers with two new categories: entry level Preferred, and Elite.

Elite partner status which will be awarded to partner that demonstrate “sales and technical competency, business specialties and services, a budgeted marketing plan, as well as meet a minimum number of customers secured via the partner.”

Talking about the reasons behind dropping the third tier, Sotnick said the middle tier often “gets fatigued” with their position in the programme.

“Distribution across two tiers is more modern, simpler, and more brand-aligned with Pure,” he told Microscope, adding that if any partner were unhappy, he would be happy to have “data-driven and fact-based conversations” with them about their placement when the new structure is introduced on August 1.

Going one step further, Pure is weeding out partners entirely that don’t display the level of commitment it requires. It already terminated 60 North American partners in Q4, 2017 and says it may consider doing the same in EMEA.

“Making money is a key economic ingredient of what all partnerships are ultimately tethered to. It’s about the results. Having that RoI and return on that invested dollar is the yardstick we’re going to measure our relationship by,” said Sotnick.

“We do not need partners of convenience in our portfolio. We would much rather get one, two, 30, 50 more sales people within your organisation, understanding how to present and position Pure for the right workload than sign a partner across the street, or across your town or across your country,” he told the 900 partners in attendance at the event.

New pricing model

Elsewhere Pure is set to introduce a new pricing model for its new line of FlashArray//X all-flash arrays, which is says will cut out the “back and forth” between partners and Pure. It is eliminating special pricing and announcing standardised prices and discounts with the aim of enabling partners to be more independent during the sales cycle.

“Partners previously had to go back to Pure to get sizing, scoping, configuring and pricing information – now will be able to move more autonomously,” Pure’s new EMEA channel lead, Matthieu Brignone, told Microscope. “Partners won’t need to call every time, sales time.”

Bill McGloin, chief technologist of information at Computacenter, believes it’s good Pure has levelled off the price of Flash//X and is decreasing discount levels.

“It makes life a bit easier for sales, as you can understand the boundaries you’re playing in,” he tells Microscope. “It’ll make a difference to us having a bit of structure around the programme.”

Sotnick also described Pure’s hundred percent channel strategy as “one of our greatest strengths”, as was its selective approach to partnering.

“In a world where the competition is not only the partner companies that are competing for same real estate and budget dollars you are, but some of the same vendors you represent, our hundred percent channel model is resonating,” he said.

Market opportunity

Globally, 2017 saw Pure “going after every deal we could,” said Pure’s VP of global sales, Kevin Delane.

Internationally, it grew its business more than 50 percent, with headcount growing at 100 percent in Europe, the firm’s fastest growing region. The UK, it says, is its most mature territory with the all-flash array market growing at 10.5 percent.

Delane singled out NetApp in particular as a legacy storage vendor from which it wants to grab market share.

“We have a huge opportunity to gain share,” he told partners. “I truly respect NetApp; I think they’re a formidable competitor. I would ask all our partners to give us an opportunity to prove we have a better solution than they do. Not in every single workload, but we do in certain workloads.

“With FlashBlade, whether it’s rapid restore, whether it’s AI or whether its analytics, we’re providing everybody here with an opportunity to grow margins and grow your overall business as you look to the future.”

Pure placed data front and centre at the event, with the vendor declaring it is now “no longer enough for organizations to just be data-driven – they must be data-centric.”

It launched a range of new data-centric products for enterprise, including the FlashArray//X product line, an all-NVMe FlashArray//X range that Pure claims “makes everything faster”, including databases, virtualized environments, test/dev initiatives and web-scale applications, at no additional cost.

The vendor also released research it conducted with MIT Technology Review, Evolution 2018 Global Report, that says 86 percent of business leaders say data is the foundation for making business decisions, while 87 percent say it’s key to delivering results for customers.

The report coincided with the launch AIRI Mini which, powered by NVIDIA, is designed to organisations to enable new data science teams and new AI projects “to get up and running quickly…at a price point that’s accessible for virtually any enterprise.”

“The technology is in a really good place, but initially it was always coming into the higher enterprise world. Now it is absolutely there,” said McGloin, who also believes the overall changes to the programme are a sign that Pure’s channel engagement is now catching up with its technology.

“They have definitely evolved as an organisation, and the partnership. They’ve matured as a company in the way they engage with partners and the way they present themselves, whereas before they were still very much the disrupter, or the new kid on the block.”

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