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NetApp To Unveil 'Hard Deck' Program To Assure Partners They Get SMB Storage Sales Exclusivity

NetApp is in the process of rolling out a "hard deck" program and other changes to its channel program, targeting accelerated growth in the storage vendor's small and midsize business market.

A "hard deck" in channel terms is a program in which a vendor sets aside a certain number of customers or potential customers, typically its largest, as targets for either its direct sales team or direct sales working with partners, and leaving the rest to be handled exclusively by solution providers.

CRN first reported on NetApp's hard deck plans early this month.

[Related: NetApp Bets Big On Cloud, All-Flash Storage Capabilities At NetApp Insight Conference]

For NetApp, the hard deck is defined as a line just below NetApp's top 1,000 accounts, said Scott Strubel, vice president of NetApp's Americas partner organization.

Strubel told CRN at this week's NetApp Insight conference in Las Vegas that the company's partner presence above that line remains unchanged.

"We expect our partners to play a very big role above the line, in that top-1,000 accounts," he said. "We have a very high percentage of our business in the top 1,000 accounts going with and through partners. But we're going to guarantee that, below that line, 100 percent of our business is going to go through partners."

The hard deck program, scheduled to start Oct. 31, comes as NetApp has placed a renewed emphasis on the midrange storage market over the past year, Strubel said.

"We've pulled away from our prior approach of having midmarket have its own sales organization, and we've rolled it back into our sales organization," he said.

The midrange is the sweet spot of the storage market, and any help targeting customers in this space is appreciated, said Mike Piltoff, senior vice president for strategic marketing at Champion Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider and NetApp channel partner.

The new hard deck will be fantastic, Piltoff told CRN. "I'm happy to see NetApp appreciate its partners and have confidence in us," he said. "If history with NetApp repeats itself, this will be good for the channel."

To make the hard deck work, NetApp will make a list of its top 100 accounts public, and keep it unchanged for the fiscal year, Strubel said.

"Our sales organization, now that they know that they're going to put all business in the midmarket on partner paper, is going to team up more in advance with the partners and start looking at how they want to break down a ZIP code or geography and [say] 'You go here and I'll go there, and we'll meet up on Wednesdays and talk about our progress,'" he said.

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