IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

NetApp Introduces All-New Partner Program

When it replaces today’s Unified Partner Program next May, the Partner Sphere program will include competencies and certifications designed to reflect the former storage vendor’s retooled, cloud-first portfolio and services-led solutions strategy. By Rich Freeman

NetApp has unveiled a new partner program built around the former on-premises storage vendor’s retooled, cloud-first portfolio and services-led solutions strategy.

When it officially launches next May, the Partner Sphere program will replace today’s Unified Partner Program with a new set of requirements, tiers, and benefits designed to accommodate a wide range of potential members, according to Jenni Flinders, senior vice president of NetApp’s worldwide partner organization.

“It really changes the way we engage with partners, and it also changes the ability to build services practices around our portfolio,” she says. “We want to accelerate our growth together with our partners and make sure that we’re supporting all of the business models that are in the market.”

NetApp’s portfolio has expanded and evolved rapidly in recent years to suit a new era of increasingly virtual, cloud-hosted end user environments. The company acquired software-defined storage vendor Talon Storage, workspace-as-a-service vendor CloudJumper, and cloud data services vendor Spot in 2020, for example, along with cloud optimization vendor CloudCheckr last year.

The upshot of those and other transactions is a family of products that channel pros can mix, match, and pair with services to deliver a wide range of solutions in areas ranging far beyond storage. Partner Sphere’s goal is to provide a single home for resellers, integrators, and MSPs regardless of which solutions they opt to provide.

“All these partners are different,” Flinders says. “We have to provide flexibility.”

In line with NetApp’s new focus on solutions rather than products, Partner Sphere will replace the Unified Partner Program’s technical specializations with three categories of solution-oriented competencies. Cloud competencies encompass data modernization, cost optimization, cloud operations, and application optimization. Hybrid cloud competencies include “cyber resiliency,” which blends security and data protection, monitoring, and converged infrastructure, among others. A final category offers competencies in artificial intelligence and analytics.

Through an expanded lineup of training programs, partners can also earn services certifications in integration, lifecycle managed services, and NetApp’s Keystone storage-as-a-service platform. 

Partner Sphere members will be slotted into one of four tiers based on a combination of how many competencies and certifications they have and how much sales revenue they generate. Newcomers to the program start at the Approved level, which provides access to an online partner hub and value-based sales incentives. Members that ascend to the Preferred level get business training and enablement opportunities, access to marketing resources and MDF, and richer sales incentives as well. 

NetApp’s most strategic partners, which typically do business nationally or globally, can rise from Preferred to the Prestige tier. An invitation-only Prestige Plus tier is reserved for a handful of the vendor’s most important partners worldwide.

NetApp plans to spend the roughly six months between now and Partner Sphere’s formal debut helping partners determine which tier they qualify for today and what they must do to reach the next level up. “They’ve got between now and spring to close those gaps,” Flinders says.

Flinders and other executives will address Partner Sphere as well as the company’s product roadmap and cloud-based vision at NetApp’s INSIGHT partner conference starting November 1st.

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