Network Appliance to pump up channel sales

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Storage vendor Network Appliance is attempting to shake off its direct sales past as it looks to increase its indirect business from 10 percent to 30 percent of total sales in the next two years.

Harry Christian, marketing and alliances manager at Network Appliance, said by the end of the company's next financial year, ending April 2004, around 25 percent of its sales will be driven through partners. Currently, the company works with a handful of channel partners including Secure Data Group, ASI Solutions and Tech Pacific, which distributes its low-end caching products.

Network Appliance initially made a play for the Australian market in June 2000 when it acquired its distributor and main reseller ProVision Technology. ProVision had been a channel partner of the US-based company since 1997. Christian said the acquisition of ProVision meant Network Appliance had an instance direct sales force by default. 'All of a sudden, we were 100 percent direct but we have been pegging back [since],' he said.

Christian said that in the past it had been difficult for the company to engage with channels mainly because its products are targeted at high-end enterprises. 'We're targeting storage-savvy resellers,' he said.

Currently, about 10 percent of the company's local revenue is generated through partners.

Christian said the company is stepping up technical and sales training for the channel over the coming months and next year will look to employ some fresh channel partners. 'Customers are asking for more than the skills of a single vendor. The sophisticated storage network integrators are getting [more] head space from customers,' Christian said.

'Customers are demanding more and want to see an integrator that has more than one proposition [to bring] to the table,' he added.

Meanwhile, the company is in the process of determining sales targets for its Gold, Platinum and Silver partners, he said. Around 80 percent of Network Appliance's business is being generated by large enterprise customers such as the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Defence Force; however, the company will introduce cheaper entry-level disk-based filer products in May.


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