IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

NetApp Updates Unified Partner Program

The changes to specializations, incentives, and rewards are interim steps on the road to more sweeping revisions that will take effect a year from now, and reflect NetApp’s ongoing reinvention of itself as a maker of cloud and container storage solutions. By Rich Freeman

NetApp has rolled out new specializations, incentives, and rewards for its Unified Partner Program.

The updates, which apply to the 2022 fiscal year that kicked off last week, are a transitional step on the road to more sweeping revisions to requirements and rewards set to go into effect a year from now. 

Both those long-term changes and the immediate ones reflect NetApp’s ongoing reinvention of itself as a maker of cloud and container storage solutions, a process that has widened its channel beyond hardware-focused VARs.

“In the past, our focus has been very much on the traditional resale community and the retail environment,” says Chris Lamborn, head of global partner go-to-market and programs at NetApp. “As we’ve transitioned to this cloud-driven, cloud-centric environment, we have very different partners coming through now.”

Those partners also focus more on solutions than products when talking to customers. As a result, NetApp has introduced new solution specializations in areas like cloud hosting, data protection, data security, and artificial intelligence, and added “Cloud Preferred” and “Spot by NetApp Preferred” designations. Spot is the cloud data services vendor NetApp acquired last year.

A new services specialization model, meanwhile, includes certifications for integration, lifecycle management, and NetApp’s consumption-based Keystone hybrid cloud storage offering.

A simplified set of program incentives is designed to align with those specializations by rewarding partners for driving sales of strategic solutions like NetApp Keystone and the FlexPod converged infrastructure offering. “Partners can earn 5% for bringing net incremental FlexPods into a solution,” Lamborn says.

In addition, individual partner employees can now collect points for contributing to the sales process by setting meetings with net new customers, registering deals, and more. Participants in the opt-in program can redeem points for merchandise or a prepaid credit card.

NetApp has also retooled its partner locator to make finding partners by specialization easier for potential sales prospects.

All of this year’s revisions are interim measures aimed at helping partners prepare for bigger changes to the Unified Partner Program’s tiers and requirements that will take effect in the 2023 fiscal year. 

“Today, we measure them on essentially a minimum number of technical specifications,” says Lamborn. “Moving forward, we will be measuring them on their specializations versus product certifications.” In addition, he continues, NetApp will track the recurring income generated by MSPs and hosting providers in addition to traditional resale revenue, as well as the wider range of services reflected in this year’s expanded lineup of service specializations.

All partners have received guidance from NetApp on where they would sit in next year’s tiering structure if it became effective today, so they can see what they must do between now and May 2022 to retain their current program status or ascend a level. “We’re giving our partners a lot of runway to adjust to our program changes before they kick in basically a year from now,” says Americas Channel Chief Jim Elder.

NetApp has been preparing its channel for change even longer than that, Lamborn notes. “This has been part of a transition and an evolution that we’ve been going through with our partners for the last two to three years,” he says.

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