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Q&A: Nick Thurlow, UK&I managing director NetApp

Thurlow is enjoying his second spell at NetApp after returning from a spell in distribution to take up the country management role and reports on the progress made so far

Nick Thurlow is starting his second stint at NetApp, after taking a few years out to help run Arrow ECs across Northern Europe, and takes a seat in the UK managing director chair with recent channel experience under his belt.

He rejoined the vendor back in February and in that time since there have been a few changes in the channel, with the most notable being the decision to reduce the number of distribution partners.

With NetApp looking to establish a reputation that sparks the idea of data rather than just storage the efforts continue to try and get the channel selling that message to customers.

How do you view the channel?

Before I left in 2012 my last job was running European channel so I have always had channel DNA and working for Arrow you see it from both sides of the fence. Having that partner DNA was something that they wanted [from a managing direcrot in the UK]. The channel has never been something that is bolted on at NetApp and has been important to the company, ever since it first started in Europe, and that doesn't change at all. The percentage of the business that we conduct through partners in the UK is in the 70s and has been for some time and the commitment is there.

There is no technology reason why a channel partner can't transact. It tends to be commercial, a global contract or something like that. We have channel partners deploying all of our technologies.

Last year the theme was not just about storage but also about data, is that still the emphasis?

The way the company is going it is about being the data authority in the hybrid cloud. So it is about securing it and doing all the things you need to do in a diverse, dynamic and distributed world. That means working with our partners to do that. We are working with more ISVs as well because often the value that we can bring to our mutual customers is through working with data governance companies, analytics companies and backup companies and all of these companies who are working to protect and work with data.

My ambition, which we did in Q1 this year, is to be the leader in the flash market in the UK. We are currently as measured by IDC number three behind Dell EMC and HP and we want to go up that league table and flash is the fastest growing part of the marketplace. On the one hand I want to grow my traditional business, storage related software, and the other strategic aspect is the journey around data.

One of the biggest changes in the world since I left and came back is that cloud is changing everything and we have a very good story about hybrid cloud and making sure that it gets into the partner world.

Every company must be looking at what the cloud means to them. One of the things we have done technology wise is we have decoupled the software so it can sit in the cloud, so you can have a NetApp environment sitting in a public cloud with nothing spinning and nothing in your data centre that you can mirror to it. That data on tap in the cloud is fundamental to our data fabric strategy.

Is the UK business doing well so far since your return?

I am very happy with the progress. Over the past two quarters we have made progress in the Uk but there is work to be done. I am very happy with the partner ecosystem we have got.  We are open to working with more partners but we have had some consolidation as well. we were working with three distributors and we have now taken that down to two. We want to work with partners that have a strategic relationship with us and we are evolving the landscape.

Commitment to partners and commitment to channel does not change. Having been a channel partner makes you realise what running a margin business is like, that you have to make decisions quickly and accurately. What you want from a vendor like us is profitability and predictability. Let me know how I can make money and don't change the programes everyday and give me a chanvce to build a business around it with a level of confidence. We strive to give our partners an opportunity to make money from services. With the cloud world someone has to bring that all together, you have hybrid, on-prem and stuff in the cloud, that needs to be joined together and that is a great opportunity for our partners to guide our mutual customers to that world of hybrid cloud.

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