Channel: Novell Reaches Out to Channel

The maker of SuSE Linux is recruiting new channel members for multiple product lines and wants a partner involved in every deal the company makes.

In late march, Novell Inc. made what might be its biggest headlines of the year by releasing the latest version of its operating system aimed at data centers, SuSE Linux Enterprise 11. But what might come as news to partners is that Novell has seriously increased its commitment to the channel in recent months.

Novell is so committed to partners, in fact, that the company wants partners in on every deal, channel executives say. The Waltham, Mass.-based company, which has long had a hybrid direct-sales/channel-sales model, specifically hopes to get partners in on deals early in the sales cycle and will rely on the channel to serve customers after the sale.

Some partners, especially those that don't have a long history with the company, will likely be happy to see change.

Renewed Commitment
Novell channel executives say that part of their revamped channel strategy involves opening the company up for new partners. Novell announced enhancements to its channel program in February, including a deal registration program and extended training offerings, plus consolidated product SKUs and a single price list, both aimed at simplifying the ordering process and holding partners' costs down.

But there's more to Novell's new partner plan than just a few tweaks. There is, to hear the company's channel executives talk about it, a renewed commitment to partners, led in part by former Microsoft channel executive Steve Hale, now Novell's vice president for the global data center channel, and in part by 15-year Novell veteran Scott Lewis.

Lewis, vice president of partner marketing and enablement for the company, says that Novell is looking for partners not just to sell and implement SuSE Linux, the company's flagship product, but to sell and support its other offerings as well.

"We go to market in data center, end-user computing, and identity and security," Lewis explains. "We generally are looking for partners in one of those solutions."
Or more than one, he says, noting that expertise in multiple products is a positive. Those offerings include the PlateSpin product line, which encompasses data center management, server virtualization and disaster recovery, among other categories. Novell acquired the vendor for $205 million about a year ago.

That data center management category is where a lot of recruitment is taking place, Lewis says: "If you look at our end-user computing, there's much more of a push to grow the partners we have. Those products have evolved in recent years. If you look at identity and security, there's a push for recruitment there but it's not massive. If you look in the data center space, there's an overlapped set of needs there. That's not Novell's historic partner base. We're recruiting there."
Partner recruitment isn't just a numbers game, though. According to Lewis: "When we look at partners, it's a quality, not a quantity, game. We're not looking to radically increase the number of partners we have."

Early Involvement
The company is looking to increase the amount of revenue it derives from the channel. Partners account for more than half of the company's revenue now, Lewis says, and Hale says that figure is increasing. It will keep going up, too, he predicts, as Novell continues to reach out to the channel in more deals.

"It's one of [our] directives to be inclusive of a partner in every opportunity we go after," Hale says, noting that the company is looking to get partners involved earlier in the sales cycle. "Ideally, then, you've already got the partner ingrained in the whole process."

Some of that business includes services, something Novell already provides its customers. Hale notes that the company is looking to make Novell services complementary to partners' services offerings while recognizing that many partners now make the bulk of their revenues through services.

"We want to engage with [partners] to make sure that they're as good as any of our Novell services people," Hale says. "Novell services is really there to be the expert of experts around Novell technology, and we'll be there to deliver great services, but very clearly a part of the charter is to do partner enablement."

The company wants to "pair up Novell services with our partners," Hale adds. "We want to encourage that kind of behavior so that our partners understand there's a market and Novell will be there to help [them]."

'Crisp Taxonomy'
The company is also trying to tailor its program to different categories of partners, and if some of what Novell is doing sounds similar to Microsoft's current and forthcoming partner efforts, that's no accident-the recently appointed Hale says he's taken lessons from Microsoft into his new gig.

"What we're trying to do is get a very crisp taxonomy of the different types of partners out there," he says. "In general, there're about six or seven different profiles of partners, all the way up from ISVs to SIs."

About the Author

Lee Pender is Redmond Channel Partner magazine's senior editor. You can reach him at [email protected].