Q&A: Adam Tarbox, director of partners and pathways UK&I, NetApp

Networks servers

Storage may not be as sexy as IoT, security or some of the emerging tech trends, but the truth is that without it nothing else can run.

One of the key players in the market right now is NetApp. Something of a legacy company, it was founded in 1992 but has now risen to be one of the two largest vendors of All Flash – one of the most exciting recent developments in the field of storage – by market share, the other being Dell EMC.

We spoke to Adam Tarbox, NetApp's director of partners and pathways for UK and Ireland, to find out what are the most important trends in the storage industry right now and the company's strategy for its UK channel as we start the new year.

What does NetApp's channel look like in the UK now?

Currently, we have over 200 accredited partners in the UK and Ireland. Over three-quarters of our revenue from the UK business is driven through partners.

Our partners are fundamental to the success of the business. NetApp has a well-established worldwide Rules of Engagement Policy to strengthen partnerships and ensure dependability while encouraging growth. Through its longstanding deal registration process, NetApp also ensures fairness and the protection of partners' investment.

How is NetApp tackling the threat of both newer, 'disruptive' technology vendors, and its peers that have bolstered their portfolios through acquisition?

The journey towards digital transformation inevitably leads to new customers and buyers with unique needs. As a result, partners are having new types of conversations with customers, to nurture this change in dynamic. We are working closely with our partners to ensure their products and offerings are suitable for these types of customers, and that the network has the right knowledge and expertise in order to help customers.

For example, the integration of our software portfolio into AWS and Microsoft Azure environments creates new service opportunities for our partners, as cloud is a key technology in the implementation of any digital transformation agenda.

What is market demand like for all-flash moving into 2018?

All-flash is still a key growth market as customers look for data management platforms which will provide the performance and consistency they need to deliver competitive advantage. NetApp has increased its market share over the past two years, with IDC placing us as the second largest all-flash vendor globally, and our partners are a huge part of this success story.

We've heard a lot, too, about NetApp's hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) play – what is the opportunity for channel partners?

Hyperconverged opens up new opportunities and markets and the partners also have their installed technology customers to talk to, so it's a big market for partners to address. Technologies such as HCI give partners an opportunity to have a broader conversation about the performance that the customer is looking for, which potentially opens a new world of opportunity for the partner. We want our partners to get involved with some of the service opportunities HCI will provide and unleash new systems and performance.

Increasing quality of service opens new conversations for partners selling NetApp's HCI solution, as the customer can consolidate workloads onto a single platform and have a wider scope for migration services.

What do you see as the biggest threats, and the biggest opportunities facing the UK channel over the next 12 months?

New technology means new opportunity, so key growth markets such as all-flash and HCI are big opportunities for NetApp and our partners.

Digital transformation is the buzzword in our industry right now and every customer we speak to is asking us how they can digitally transform and extract better value from their data. So, you could say that digital transformation is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for the data management industry and the partner community.

One thing to add here is that the biggest opportunities come through partnership and collaboration – this is what NetApp's business is built on. Through cultivating great partnerships, we are greater than the sum of our parts – insights, solutions and expertise are shared to the benefit of the whole ecosystem.

What is NetApp's channel strategy for 2018?

Our partner strategy going into 2018, in a nutshell, is three-fold: do more with partners that want to invest a do more with us; drive profitability for partners through programmes and driving a service-led approach; investing in new solutions and ecosystems to address emerging technologies.

We want to empower our partners with new solutions, training, ongoing support and commitment. All partner propositions are mapped against these and built out to ensure we are supporting partners as the experts in digital transformation. Indeed, within the NetApp framework, partners are celebrated for helping more than just the customers, but helping vendors grow as a business.

We want to work with partners that have a strategic relationship with us and are evolving the landscape. Our commitment to partners and commitment to the channel does not change.

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.