Customers trying to map out their cloud and sourcing strategies for the next five years are largely doing it on guess work giving them reasons to be attracted by resellers that can offer flexibility.
Several NetApp executives used the vendor's Insight event in Berlin this week to underline the need for partners to be flexible and provide choices for customers working through their digital transformation processes.
The vendor has already warned that buying patterns are changing and the sale has to be about the service and software rather than hardware, with that trend only increasing over the next few years.
Alex Wallmer, senior vice president & general manager EMEA at NetApp, said that he had not met a customer yet that had a firm grip on their longer term strategy.
"I haven't seen a single customer that has sorted out their cloud strategy or the sourcing strategy over the next five years. Most of these strategies are evolving at the moment," he said.
As a result the need for flexibility was greater than ever to ensure that customers could react to events as and when they needed to.
"For us it is key that customers have the freedom of choice," he added "A lot of customers ask us, 'What do you say?', is it public cloud, private or hybrid? My unfriendly answer to that would be that I don't care and that must be the right answer," he said.
"Customers have not sorted it out but every single customer will need to sort it out in the next few years based on data regulations and all the different stuff about how and if they want to embrace the cloud," he added.
That message about helping users keep an open mind is one being shared with UK channel partners as the management looks to increase the reputation for NetApp as a data management specialist.
Elliot Howard, area director, UK and Ireland at NetApp, said that it had a strong hardware reputation but it was working hard to get partners to recognise its software strengths.
"What we are saying to our partners is that you need to really considering and looking and exploring our software products because they can help you drive a better engagement with your customers," he said.
"One of our responsibilities is to help our customers understand what we are today and it takes time but I am starting to see the green shoots from some of our partners when we go in and lead with them and talk about our software products," he added.
He said that the firm had spent a lot of time this year making sure it was vertically aligned to made it easier to talk to users about how they could be more agile, because there is a deeper understanding of the issues those firms are facing.
"Those partners that can get to the point of trust faster, with vendors like us that understand the problems, will win," he said.