The truth about NetApp partnerships leaks out… incrementally

An article in CRN seems like deje vu to Zerowait who also had deals with JPL that NetApp decided we couldn’t handle once we had established the account and had already sold them plenty of equipment. The registration program has always been a joke and nothing has seemed to have changed in the unnecessarily adversarial relationship between NetApp and its VAR’s.

NetApp has always treated VAR’s as a missionary sales force only valuable for “incremmental sales”, and once a good customer is found they take the future deals for themselves, leaving the VAR with nothing but a lot of wasted effort.

A Network Appliance solution provider working with that vendor’s StoreVault S500 entry-level storage array moved quickly to take advantage of a couple potential opportunities only to cry foul when he said he was thwarted by the vendor in pursuing those opportunities.

Ron Robinson, president and CEO of Innovative Technology Data Storage, an Atlanta-based storage solution provider, has been engaged with NetApp in a long-running battle over whether the vendor and its direct sales rep, who focuses his sales on NetApp’s FAS line of midrange and enterprise storage appliances, is unfairly preventing competition from Robinson selling the vendor’s entry level StoreVault line.

Robinson also accuses NetApp of violating its own dealer registration policy in the case of another customer who had been purchasing from a local solution provider but who was interested in making a deal with Robinson.

In the first deal, Innovative visited long-time NetApp FAS customer Cingular, as the wireless division of AT&T is still commonly referred to, and found interest in multiple units of the StoreVault for use as low-cost remote backup appliances, Robinson said.

While Cingular was planning to purchase FAS 270 arrays direct from NetApp, Innovative registered the deal as a StoreVault deal. “But then the NetApp rep heard that we were talking to Cingular, and didn’t like it,” Robinson said. “So Cingular called us to stop the deal.”

The reason was simple, Robinson said. “The NetApp reps had no vested interest in selling the StoreVault,” he said. “If they sell FAS or another solution, they don’t want the customer to see other low-cost solutions.”

Ed Smith, the local NetApp FAS sales rep, told NetApp’s local StoreVault sales rep that Innovative can’t go into Cingular with StoreVault, Robinson said. “The local NetApp sales rep doesn’t like me because I sell the S500 against them even though its all NetApp product.”

This is priceless…

As for Krishnan’s excuse that NetApp didn’t know what department at JPL was looking to make the StoreVault deal, Robinson said he presented all the relevant information to NetApp when registering the deal.

“Every opportunity is an RFP (request for proposal) number,” he said. “And this partner opportunity had an RFP number. If you call the buyer, he will tell you the buyer called us. Part of the deal registration process is to submit detailed information, which we did: the buyer’s name, department, phone number, etc. All that information is part of submitting for deal registration on-line.

“When NetApp says that, why don’t they pick up the phone and call the buyer that called me? Nobody did. They can pick up the phone as easily as I did.”

NetApp sales model is based on selling boxes, not long term relationships.

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