Getting down to business

As competition for networking vendors in the data centre market heats up, IP networking solutions vendor Brocade is expanding its market presence and footprint as it tries to compete more effectively with rivals Cisco, HP ProCurve and Juniper Networks in the region.


Key to its channel push is to help partners run profitable solution provider businesses in the Middle East while Brocade protects its own turf from rivals.

Since closing the Foundry Networks merger, Brocade has been busy streamlining its channel as well as product line. To that effect, the vendor has overhauled it partner programme, cemented its OEM alliances and refined its partner engagement model with reseller globally.


For the Middle East region where Cisco and HP ProCurve have dominated the larger share of the channel market, it’s vital that Brocade addresses this market by clearly distinguishing to its partners and their end-users its value proposition.


And given that the vendor didn’t have a stronger channel presence in the region, this is a big change for Brocade. In the past, the vendor relied on its OEM alliances to sell majority of its products and solutions. The OEM business is still integral to Brocade and the vendor is complementing this fast as it has started to court channel partners all in an effort to build a comprehensive channel business that’s sound and sustainable.


To achieve this, Brocade wants to grow its channel business by ensuring that it is selectively engaging with partners that are well vested in storage and IP networking, have the company’s products at heart, are willing to take that extra mile and have what it takes to make it in the highly demanding data centre space.


APN overhaul


Barbara Spicek, VP, Global Channel Sales at Brocade, says against the back drop of the Foundry acquisition, the company has been busy revamping the global Alliance Partner Network (APN) with new channel initiatives designed to attract storage and IP networking solution providers.


Spicek says this process of luring storage and IP networking focused solution providers has been a selective one, as the company is aiming at building a profitable channel that has quality elements like marketing co-op funds, deal registration and protection, rebates, and training and certification.


Spicek says Brocade launched its overhauled APN programme in April last year at the partner summit for North America with the view to firstly, amalgamate partners that previously sold Foundry into Brocade’s own channel ecosystem. That phase was followed by localisation of certain elements in the programme to suit certain market dynamics and geographies, says Spicek.


Consequently, says Spicek, the programme has been rolled out to other countries globally. “In the UAE, am glad to report that for the first time in the history of the company’s operation here from its base in Dubai, we now have a Partner Council for the region,” she says.


She explains that the benefits for partners in the region as a result of the overhaul and establishment of the Partner Council include: a revamped and dedicated partner portal, marketing co-op tools and resources, increased partner training, end-user demand generation campaigns and increased pre- and post-sales partner support. “We have doubled our channel support team in EMEA and we will further be increasing the number of staff for the Middle East region,” she says.


She explains that as part of Brocade’s commitment to growing its channel business and offerings, the company has also appointed a new channel director for Europe and increased channel marketing budgets especially in the Middle East region where the brand is gaining market share fast. “In this region, we have two regional bases in Dubai and Riyadh,” she says. “This has been done to address the specific markets within the region better.”


According to Spicek, the reason for having two bases in the Middle East is to serve the channel in this region efficiently, as Saudi Arabia is a strategic and growing market for Brocade. “There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia is by far one of the largest IT markets in the GCC and the Gulf at large,” she says.


Khalid Khalil, Regional Sales Manager, CEMA at Brocade, says as business was impacted last year across many industry sectors, the company is preparing its channel partners to be ready for the year ahead. “The channel changes that we are rolling out are to the benefit of our partners,” he says. “We are giving them tools that will make them more competitive with their peers who sell rival products.”


Khalil acknowledges that Brocade would like to have a fair share of the data centre business, however, he believes that such success should be beneficial to both channel partners and the company. “We are aware of the threats that our rivals such as Cisco, HP ProCurve and Juniper pose,” he says. “We are under no illusions that it will be easy for Brocade to grow its business in the region hence we are fine tuning our channel programme with tools that will equip resellers to become trusted business advisors.”


He explains that it is important for resellers in the region to know that Brocade is here to create a win-win scenario for them and the company. “We know for a fact that if their business grows, we also grow,” he says.


Spicek agrees and says although all networking vendors are competing and would like to dominate the data centre, those that will succeed are vendors that have the right product and solution which is backed up by well trained partners and after sales support.


She points out that it is for this reason that through the broader APN programme, Brocade also offers the Professional Services Programme (PSP), which allows a selective group of partners to deliver a wide scope of Brocade’s IP professional services or resell their own as Brocade certified.


In addition, the IP networking solutions vendor has also launched the Support Delivery Programme (SDP), which enables selective solution providers to deliver tier-1 and -2 support, as well as the recently unveiled Brocade Assurance Limited Lifetime Warranty on select IP networking products.


Middle East focus


Spicek says across the entire Middle East region, Brocade has the opportunity to deliver extraordinary networks and expand its own footprint. Spicek says Brocade’s growth in the Middle East region will come from its networking business. “Despite the stiff competition in the networking space, HP ProCurve remains the strongest partner of Brocade,” she says.


She adds that part of the vertical focus for the region will see Brocade address the higher education sector, healthcare, high performance computing, media and entertainment, and service providers segments.


Spicek says in addition to this vertical focus, Brocade has already started to map its channel partners in the region to tailor them towards these verticals. “We are cautious in our approach of developing and growing our channel in the region as we would like to ensure that we’ve quality rather than quantity,” she says. “At the moment we have Mindware as our distributor for the region.”


She explains that the company will be limiting the number of partners per country so that it does not dilute their margins.


Khalil agrees and points out that Brocade realises that partners have varying levels of knowledge and technical capabilities on the company’s product offering hence it’s implementing its channel initiatives with a view to protecting resellers from under cutting each other. “Creating opportunity and helping resellers to run profitable businesses is our goal this year,” he says. “We cannot achieve this if we flood the market with partners at the expense of providing quality which in essence should benefit end-users.”


With Cisco, Juniper and HP ProCurve all looking to attack the SAN space, Spicek says it’s vital for Brocade partners in the Middle East to remember that the company is still a force to be reckoned with in the segment. “We have OEM agreements with IBM and Dell on the LAN side of business,” she says. “We continue to work with these storage system vendors even on the SAN side as we believe we have what it takes to face any of our rivals in the data centre on an equal footing.”


Following on the heels of its Foundry Networks acquisition, Brocade is galvanising its Middle East channel with a barrage of new game changing initiatives which the vendor believes will propel its business and that of channel partners for growth. RWME?s Manda Banda reports.

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