In-Depth

RCP Platinum Partner Program

Find out which third-party programs your peers say sell better together with Microsoft solutions.

As a group, you're pretty pleased with the Microsoft Partner Program. In our reader survey last month, about 70 percent of you said you were happy or very happy with the program. But let's face it, even for the most committed Microsoft partners, Microsoft's software is just a small part of the revenue equation.

Whenever Microsoft boasts about the opportunities for partners in the Microsoft ecosystem, it's never just about the Microsoft products. The pitch also includes all the margin partners can rack up reselling a whole solution with Microsoft software at its center. The solution could carry hardware in the form of PCs, laptops, servers, storage, printers and networking gear. There's additional software for security, backup and recovery, systems management or virtualization.

Then, of course, there's the price tag for the services you render to stitch it all together.So what vendors really go "better together," to use one of Microsoft's favorite marketing terms, with Microsoft solutions? To find out, we ran a survey in the fourth quarter of 2008, asking readers what vendors they represented in addition to Microsoft. We heard from about 500 of you.

Hewlett-Packard Co. was your top choice, both in reselling/recommending and in participation in the company's partner program. Dell Inc. came in a remarkably close second for a direct-sales firm that's only been serious about an indirect model for a little over a year. Other programs that came out on top included Cisco Systems Inc., Symantec Corp. and Intel Corp.

In all, 15 partner programs qualified for the inaugural RCP Platinum Partner Program awards.

RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
HP HP
HP
HEADQUARTERS:     PALO ALTO, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:    PARTNERONE
HP.COM
77% 37%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
It's no surprise that HP scored well in this survey. Microsoft and HP have been strategic partners for decades, and HP carries many of the product categories partners are looking to sell -- from PCs and servers to storage, printers and software.

The 77 percent of survey participants who said they either resold or recommended HP products was the highest score for any company by 8 percentage points. HP also enjoyed the highest percentage of survey respondents who reported actively participating in a company's partner program.

The program has generally received high marks from channel insiders since HP Chairman, CEO and President Mark Hurd brought on Adrian Jones as HP's channel chief in early 2007.

Adrian Jones, vice president and general manager of the Solution Partners Organization
Adrian Jones, vice president and general manager of the Solution Partners Organization -- Americas, HP, has kept up HP’s partner investments since becoming HP’s channel chief in early 2007.
The company isn't standing still. In November, at the start of HP's fiscal year, HP rolled out enhancements to the PartnerONE program, which has about 15,000 partners in North America.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer giant's November changes replaced the Gold and Platinum Partner levels with Preferred and Elite levels. At the same time, the company streamlined the program to bring the partner requirements into alignment across business units.

The Preferred Partner level, which replaced the Gold level, included -- among other benefits -- access to sales rebates, marketing support and growth incentives.

The Elite Partner level, which replaced Platinum, added assigned channel sales support, end-user-focused marketing support, priority leads, partner-locator support, stronger rebates and other benefits. The Business Partner level, which includes partner promotions, HP financing, support and training, will continue to be the lowest tier of the PartnerONE program.

The new program coordinated entry levels for HP's different business units, such as the Personal Systems Group. The effort also brought demand-generation media campaigns aimed at small to midsize business and commercial customers.

HP has also moved to standardize the thresholds for moving from one partner tier to another. The process now depends primarily on hitting revenue targets. Partners who grow quickly will be eligible for extra investments from HP based on their rate of revenue growth. The program is now also set up to allow partners to increase rebates by broadening the range of HP solutions that they carry. Elite training is available for technology areas including PC and workstation blades, thin clients, virtualization, Microsoft unified communications, office printing and the public sector

One of the highest profile ways the Microsoft-HP relationship trickles down to partners is in a joint program called the HP/Microsoft Frontline Partnership. Any partner that belongs to both the HP PartnerONE program and the Microsoft Partner Program is automatically a part of the Frontline Partnership.

The program includes customer campaigns, marketing money and sales and marketing collateral. The campaigns are like Microsoft Ready-to-Go campaigns with specific information about HP hardware added in. The campaigns also provide the companies' joint partners with sales and marketing materials that present customers with information on more complete solutions.

One element of the Frontline Partnership is a series of free tools for creating, distributing and using customized business letters, postcards, event invitations, brochures, HTML e-mails, Web pages, presentations and telesales scripts. HP and Microsoft estimate that cost savings for their partners from using all the tools in a typical campaign could reach about $10,000. They also provide options for Frontline partners to buy printing, mailing and list rental services. Frontline partners can also book visits from Microsoft Across America trucks, the rolling tech labs that criss-cross the United States to support partner and Microsoft field sales events. HP helps Microsoft cover the costs of supporting the trucks for FLP-related visits.

The Frontline Partnership also provides a structured process for resellers to apply for marketing funds for integrated campaigns.

All told, HP's product set, the level of investment that HP and Microsoft put into the Frontline Partnership and HP's own investments to improve PartnerONE are strong reasons that the HP partner program is a good fit for Microsoft partners.

RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Dell Dell
DELL INC.
HEADQUARTERS:   ROUND ROCK, TEXAS
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME: PARTNERDIRECT
DELL.COM
69% 33%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
It wasn't long ago that Dell was known in the channel as the direct sales company that would occasionally dip its toes into the channel waters, then quickly yank them out again.

A lot has changed in two years. Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell started hinting in May 2007 that it was time for Dell to get serious about channel sales and being a good partner. By December of that year, Dell launched the PartnerDirect global partner program.

PartnerDirect included a partner portal, marketing logos and guidelines, pre-sales resources and customer care, certification programs and credit options. One other key element was a deal registration program using Salesforce.com's partner relationship management tool. After about six months, Dell officials said deal registrations amounted to $200 million, and had lowered the minimum size to register deals from $75,000 to $50,000.

PartnerDirect launched with two tiers. Registered Partners got all the basic benefits of the program. The Certified Partner level added demonstration units, field account managers, enhanced financing, extra support, product roadmap previews and co-marketing funds. Dell started separate certification programs for managed service providers and for enterprise architects.

One other structural issue that Dell positions as an advantage for partners is the decision, inherent in the "Direct" part of the program's name, to keep distributors, and their cut of profits, out of the mix. Partners order directly from Dell and can have orders shipped straight to customers.

To be sure, Dell already had 30,000 partners worldwide and about $9 billion in solution provider revenues when PartnerDirect launched. But the formal program launch has organized existing partners, attracted new solution providers and brought substantial channel-based revenue growth.

According to a Michael Dell speech in November, PartnerDirect had about 40,000 partners -- a net increase of 10,000 partners in one year. On the official Dell Channel blog, an executive noted that the PartnerDirect portal is available in 19 languages and the company has registered partners in 148 countries. Meanwhile, the Round Rock, Texas-based firm's North American partner base is now rivaling HP's, with Dell claiming 16,000 North American partners.

The partner opportunity in the managed-service area is a little more limited. Dell's mix of the direct and indirect model extends to its portfolio of SMB-targeted services offerings. In 2007 and 2008, Dell bought its way into the services space with the acquisitions of managed service platform provider Silverback, remote-service management SaaS specialist Everdream and SaaS e-mail continuity vendor MessageOne.

In launching PartnerDirect, Dell decided to bring over about 150 SilverBack partners into the Dell program, and executives say they are looking for hundreds, rather than thousands, of managed service partners.

In all, the company said it met a 33 percent growth goal -- reaching $12 billion in solution provider revenues in 2008.

"This isn't an experiment," Michael Dell told a group of visiting partners about six months into the program. "What we want to do over the next three to nine months is better understand the capabilities of our partners."

The company has also been listening. One objection raised by channel observers to PartnerDirect last year was that its highest profile executive, Greg Davis, only operated at a regional level as vice president and general manager of the Americas Channel Group. In January, Davis got a promotion to a global role running Dell's channel business.

Davis' promotion came during a companywide restructuring, in which Dell reorganized itself globally around four major customer segments -- large enterprise, public, SMB and consumer. That the channel initiative not only survived the reorganization but saw its key champion move up a rung on the executive ladder is a positive sign for Dell's commitment to its new channel religion.

RCP readers are taking Dell seriously. A stratospheric 69 percent of survey respondents resell or recommend Dell products. And a healthy 33 percent of respondents said they belonged to the Dell PartnerDirect program.

When it comes to Microsoft partners, the Dell value proposition is obvious. As a longtime strategic partner with Microsoft, Dell's product portfolio of corporate-oriented PCs, laptops, servers, storage and other products are a logical fit for Microsoft-based solutions.

RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Cisco Cisco
Cisco Systems Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:   SAN JOSE , CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  CISCO CHANNEL
CISCO.COM
64% 31%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Networking giant Cisco is a substantial source of business for RCP readers, with 64 percent of survey respondents reselling or recommending Cisco gear and 31 percent of respondents participating in the Cisco Channel Partner Program.

Cisco's channel program consists of three parts: the Resale Channel Program, the Managed Services Channel Program and the Cisco Outsourcing Channel Program. The resale program includes the company's traditional networking business model with partners. Partner levels in the program include Select (an SMB specialization introduced in 2007), Silver, Gold, Premier, Master Specialization in Unified Communications and Master Specialization in Security.

Partner discounts are based on the partner's certification level, allowing small partners to earn the same discounts as much larger partners. The Cisco Channel Partner Program now also includes former members of the Linksys Partner Connection Program, which was retired Sept. 16, 2008.

The Managed Services Channel Program is for partners who manage, monitor and troubleshoot customers' Cisco solutions remotely from a network operations center. The Outsourcing Channel Program sets up partners to take over and manage IT assets for a customer, either on-site or through a remote data center. The contracts usually cover several years and multiple technologies.

While Cisco networking equipment is an essential element of Microsoft networks, the companies' joint partners operating in the UC field often find they have choices to make between Microsoft-based and Citrix-based solutions.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Symantec Symantec
Symantec Corp.
HEADQUARTERS:     CUPERTINO, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:   SYMANTEC
              PARTNER PROGRAM
SYMANTEC.COM
51% 23%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
When it comes to Microsoft partners, Symantec has a simple message. "Other than Microsoft, Symantec provides more solutions for Microsoft Windows than any other vendor worldwide," the company noted in a presentation to partners at a recent conference.

Symantec's well-known security product portfolio is a sensible fit for a lot of Microsoft partners. But Symantec has a lot of other products owing to its average pace of acquiring three to six firms per year. Symantec has a strong set of Windows-based storage products from its 2005 acquisition of Veritas. The 2007 purchase of Altiris, meanwhile, brought Windows-oriented systems management products.

Enrique Salem officially takes over as president and CEO at Symantec on April 4 when John Thompson retires from the CEO job after 10 years. Thompson will remain chairman.

The challenge facing Symantec and Salem is in helping partners to understand the dozens of products that might be a fit for its customers and getting partners to carry those products. To that end, the company launched a tool on its PartnerNet portal called SymBrain late last year.

The online database is designed to take keywords from partners and guide them toward solution sales.

An illustration of the challenge for Symantec, and the opportunity for Microsoft partners, came back at the Windows Server 2008 launch. At the time, Symantec noted that more than 20 of its products supported the server OS.

While 51 percent of survey respondents reported selling Symantec software, it's a safe bet they might find more products in Symantec's portfolio.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Intel Intel
Intel Corp.
HEADQUARTERS: SANTA CLARA, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME: INTEL CHANNEL
               PARTNER PROGRAM
INTEL.COM
50% 19%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Is it any surprise that the "tel" in "Wintel" shows up in a list of vendors that Microsoft partners also sell? Roughly half of respondents resell or recommend Intel equipment and 19 percent belong to the Intel Channel Partner Program.

The formal program is geared to white-box system builders who make custom desktops, notebooks or servers. The program is designed to provide those system builders with technical support, warranty replacement and demo products, whether they buy direct from Intel or get their kits from distributors.

Other benefits include the Intel Sales Tools Store, which offers marketing merchandise, literature and customer gifts; campaign creation tools for building ads and collateral; and event-building tools that include loaner booths and literature for trade shows.

The Intel Channel Partner Program is divided into three levels. The lowest level, Registered Member, is similar to the Registered Member in the Microsoft program. There's no minimum purchase requirement and it has fairly limited benefits. A partner qualifies for an Associate Member level with the purchase of 50 or more qualifying units per year and begins to see some go-to-market help.

Premier Members reach six-figure thresholds in purchases of mobile, desktop or server components from distribution and see more go-to-market benefits and get technical benefits, as well. Premier Members also must commit to support strategic launches of Intel products each year and to industry certifications for two employees, plus take face-to-face training.

Products covered in the program include processors, motherboards, server components and VoIP cards.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
IBM IBM
IBM Corp.
HEADQUARTERS:     ARMONK, N.Y.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME: PARTNERWORLD
IBM.COM
47% 20%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
The relationship with IBM is as old as almost any in the annals of Microsoft. And it has been as contentious as it has been cozy from the start. With its own OS platforms and application stacks, an aggressive Linux play and no PC business to support, Big Blue doesn't have as many ties to Microsoft as it once did. But Windows on the xSeries servers remains a key platform for Microsoft, IBM and the companies' mutual partners.

Partners also find opportunities in IBM's storage, services and software, although partners selling IBM software will face a new, more controlled channel distribution strategy starting Oct. 1.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
APC APC
American Power Conversion Corp.
HEADQUARTERS:  WEST KENSINGTON, R.I.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:    APC
                 CHANNEL PROGRAM
APC.COM
45% 17%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Power and cooling specialist APC offers a four-tier partner program that gives Microsoft partners a point of entry whether they're Small Business Specialists handling power management for a wiring closet or a Gold Certified Partner configuring a large data center. The levels include Registered Partner, Select Partner, Premier Partner and Elite Partner.

APC's product families fit into several disciplines: power and distribution; racks and enclosures; security and environmental; management; and cooling. Program benefits include a portal, an online university and in-person training, sales and marketing tools, collaboration tools, rebates, opportunity registration, marketing development funds and a leads program.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Seagate Seagate
Seagate Technology LLC
HEADQUARTERS:    SCOTTS VALLEY , CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:    SEAGATE
                PARTNER PROGRAM
SEAGATE.COM
44% 16%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
The hard disk drive maker's partner program is designed for system builders and resellers. Seagate's internal hard drives power desktops, workstations, mobile PCs and servers, and the company has lines of external drives and other storage devices.

In October 2007, the company segmented its Seagate Partner Program (SPP) with a Seagate Premier level for North American system builders that the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based firm identified as "high value." Those included system builders that were selling in high volume or were category leaders in surveillance or rugged systems. The broader SPP provides marketing tools and financial incentives for local, regional and national system builders.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
NetGear NetGear
NetGear Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:   SAN JOSE , CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  POWERSHIFT
                               PARTNER PROGRAM
NETGEAR.COM
42% 12%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Networking provider NetGear, which was spun off from Nortel Networks in 2002, sells its ProSafe Business Networking Product Line to SMB customers. The company runs a two-tier partner program called the PowerShift Program, with no entry fees.

The Gold level includes upfront product discounts, volume incentive rebates, government and education discounts and deal registration. To reach the higher Platinum level, partners must receive an invitation from NetGear. Platinum members get an account manager, pre-sales engineering support, market development funds, joint call support and product roadmap previews.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Lenovo Lenovo
Lenovo
HEADQUARTERS:  MORRISVILLE, N.C.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  LENOVO
                           PARTNER NETWORK
LENOVO.COM
36% 15%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
More than one-third of survey respondents reported reselling or recommending Lenovo computers. Lenovo, which bought IBM's PC business about four years ago and whose partner splash page still has an IBM URL, calls its partners Lenovo Solution Partner-Resellers.

Those partners can resell ThinkPad notebooks, ThinkCentre desktops, ThinkStations, ThinkServers, ThinkVision monitors, PC accessories and options, Lenovo 3000 notebooks and desktops, and services. Lenovo also runs an influencer program that provides fees for partners who influence customers to buy Lenovo products direct from Lenovo.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
VMware VMware
VMware Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:   PALO ALTO, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  VMWARE
                          PARTNER PROGRAM
VMWARE.COM
39% 15%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Over the last year, VMware rapidly ramped up a physical channel organization to sell its virtual wares. For partners, the combination of the Microsoft platform and VMware virtualization has been a good one. Nearly 40 percent of RCP survey respondents are reselling or recommending VMware.

The company is giving potential channel partners plenty of choices for entering the program. The VIP Reseller program, with three tiers, gives partners access to VMware products through distribution. VMware launched a System Builder Program last August to get more VMware-based systems into the market. An older program, VMware Authorized Consultant, is geared toward service-oriented partners.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Citrix Citrix
Citrix Systems Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:   PALO ALTO, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  CITRIX
                           SOLUTION ADVISORS
CITRIX.COM
37% 14%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Citrix is Microsoft's closest industry partner on virtualization and nearly all of the company's revenues ride on top of Microsoft platforms in some fashion, making the Citrix Solution Advisor partner program a natural fit for Microsoft partners. Citrix recently modified the program to make it easier for partners to sell new products.

The new program, called CSA Authorized, allows partners to sell products immediately and to later line up the technical training needed to implement the solutions. Citrix's aim is to lower the barriers to entry for partners to begin selling the company's entire portfolio, known as the Citrix Delivery Center.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
Acer Acer
Acer Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:     SAN JOSE, CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:    ACER CHANNEL
acer.COM
37% 11%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
Acer has been surging lately and some partners are hanging on for the ride. The company is third worldwide in the total PC market (desktops, mobile PCs and x86 servers) for 2008, according to Gartner.

In the notebook segment, Acer is second worldwide, partly on the strength of netbook sales. For the channel, Acer offers financing, a server configurator and a customer relationship management system that's accessible to Acer's certified channel.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
McAfee McAfee
McAfee Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:     SANTA CLARA , CALIF.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:  MCAFEE GLOBAL
        SECURITY ALLIANCE PROGRAM
MCAFEE.COM
35% 13%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
McAfee's network security, system security, data-loss prevention and risk- and vulnerability-management software are a straightforward sale for a lot of Microsoft partners.

McAfee has three tiers in its McAfee Global Security Alliance Program for solution providers: AssociatePartner level, PremierPartner level and qualified lead-fed, account-managed ElitePartner level.

Partners at all levels get access to the McAfee SecurityAlliance eXchange (MAX) portal, a partner relationship management infrastructure. The training includes training, technical support, service delivery guides, evaluation software and request for proposal tools.
RCP Platinum Partner Program
   RCP Platinum Partner Program
CA CA
CA Inc.
HEADQUARTERS:     ISLANDIA, N.Y.
PARTNER PROGRAM NAME:    CA PARTNER
CA.COM
31% 14%
RESELLING OR
RECOMMENDING
PARTICIPATING IN
PARTNER PROGRAM
With a lot of tools and software that runs on and bolsters Windows, CA has a tight relationship with Microsoft partners. CA has a mix of direct and indirect sales, but uses partners to address the entire SMB market and two-thirds of the enterprise customer base.

The CA Partner Program is segmented into four tiers-Registered, Silver, Gold and Platinum. At the Platinum level, the program includes dedicated marketing support, assigned account management and CA's highest level of financial support. Benefits slide down the scale to the Registered level, which includes partner portal access and limited support.

Financial incentives in the CA Partner Program include sales performance incentive funds and an annual sales incentive with quarterly payouts of rebates, market development funds and deal registration.

About the Author

Contact the staff of Redmond Channel Partner at editor@rcpmag.com.