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Brocade Q&A: ‘It’s About Execution’

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**Editor’s Note: Click here to see which channel people were on the move in January.**

Brocade’s new channel chief says he’s excited to build the program after in-depth conversations with the company’s partners.

Brocade's Pete PetersonPete Peterson, who joined the networking solutions provider in November as vice president of channel sales and marketing, chatted with Channel Partners in a conference call. He said that although being new to the company means continuing to execute the current plan, he looks forward to making changes that partner feedback dictates.

Peterson boasts two decades of experience at Tech Data, where he said he gained knowledge that he will use at Brocade.

“Certainly I’ve seen some things over the years that don’t necessarily work as well, so I think I’ll be able to bring a pretty unique perspective to my role,” he said. “I like to say I’ve been sitting on the 50-yard line watching a lot of great channel leaders over the years drive a strong channel cadence, and obviously channels is near and dear to my heart.

We compiled the conversation into a Q&A format. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Channel Partners: Pete, do you want to give us some background on Brocade and what it does?

Pete Peterson: Brocade celebrated its 20th year in business last year, so established in 1995. The original product focus and solutions focus was around our SAN business, which is our storage area network business, and it’s been a great, great product for us. In fact, it’s used in over 90 percent or 95 percent of the world’s largest data centers today, so a long history and very positive experiences with our SAN solutions..{ad}

About eight or nine years ago, in the eight-year category, Brocade acquired Foundry Networks, which was a networking IP vendor, so we have acquired those products and solutions. If you look at our business, it’s really around fabric switching and data center networking, if you will. And as I say, the company is about 20 years old, strong foundation. From a partnering perspective, we sell a lot storage network solutions with our own brand, but a lot of our revenue comes from OEM relationships with the likes of the EMCs and Hitachis and IBMs and HPs of the world as well. So it’s a great company. We’re in a great position, specifically in the IP space, where we’ve seen some major transformation, particularly around software and SDN, or software-defined networking, is starting to become a lot more prevalent, at least in our discussions with partners and end users around how we can help and deploy those software solutions to run their networks better.

CP: How much of your business is in indirect sales?

PP: It’s well over 85 or 90 percent. We’re a partner-driven company, so either through our partner ecosystems — meaning the traditional OEM relationships, where they’re selling our products in their channels — or our direct channel relationships where we’re selling Brocade-branded SAN and IP solutions within our partner …

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… community. We’re a channel-centric, channel-driven company, and it’s been that way, quite frankly, from the roots of its original existence.

CP: You came on board with Brocade last year. How has the company been focusing its channel efforts since then?

PP: I’m 90 days in, so I think the prudent thing to do is to assess what we have. I’ve spent a lot of time in the field. I think I’ve engaged with about 50 to 75 partners so far. In fact, I just got back last week from a two-week trip to Europe where I spent the last three or four days co-hosting our Europe partner advisory board where we’re with 15 of our most strategic partners, getting input from them on what’s working well and what we can do to continue to grow our business with them. I spent a lot of time working with my peers, our geo leaders who manage the day-to-day sales motion at Brocade, getting the input on them on the help and support they need to make sure that we’re exploiting the opportunities with our channel partners in the marketplace. And then, of course, spending time at corporate with our BU and product teams to make sure that I understand their strategy for their products and our solutions and make sure we’re building and adopting our programs to support their strategies.

CP: When you met with those partners, what were some of the things they told you?

PP: … It was very consistent with the survey results. Once a year, Brocade sends out a channel survey to get feedback from our partners on the things we’re doing well, the things obviously we could improve. And paraphrasing some of the feedback here — and we’ll certainly share that with you: Brocade is a great company. You have great technology, you’ve got great products, a great leadership team. Where we need your help is around helping us drive more awareness. A lot of our partners and downstream to the end-user community know Brocade from its traditional SAN heritage, but a lot of our partners are not so much up to speed on our capabilities in the IP and networking space and the software-defined networking space as well. So it gives us an opportunity to pinpoint actions in place to go drive awareness and make sure that they understand the full solutions offering Brocade has to offer with them and through them out into the market.

CP: You spent about 20 years at Tech Data. That’s a long time.

PP: Shhh. Don’t say that. You’re making me sound old.

CP: Sorry. In any case, in that short time, what did you learn from that and how do you apply that to Brocade?

PP: That’s a great question. I spent, as you say, just shy of 20 years at one of the world’s largest global distributors. One year I think I had eight different assignments. My most recent three, I was a senior vice president of global business development. Before that I was …

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… a senior VP of Tech Data’s U.S. sales organization where I managed about 40 percent of the revenue number and had hundreds of selling resources that supported and worked with me to drive that business. And then the role before that I was senior vice president of their data center practice that I had the privilege of launching with Tech Data about eight or nine years ago. And the thing I would say, it’s really prepared me for my current role and assignment at Brocade. One, I’ve worked with some of the — all, if you will — top IT manufacturers in our space. So whether they’re in the networking space or virtualization or server/storage enterprise or even the commercial space, I’ve had a chance to see what works. And really, when it works well it is a partnership between the distributor and the manufacturer to ultimately drive the programs and enablement tools and processes to make and allow the partners to be successful. I think I have a keen idea of what works, and certainly I’ve seen some things over the years that don’t necessarily work as well, so I think I’ll be able to bring a pretty unique perspective to my role. I like to say I’ve been sitting on the 50-yard line watching a lot of great channel leaders over the years drive a strong channel cadence, and obviously channels is near and dear to my heart. I’ve spent about two-thirds of my career supporting channel partners over the years.

CP: This year, what can we expect to see happen with Brocade?

PP: On the channel front, I joined literally day one of fiscal year ’16, so as with most companies, as you can imagine, the plan that we’re implementing was put in place long before I joined. Probably 90 days out, as most companies that do a great job of planning, which Brocade does, and so really now for us, for me and my team, is really on execution. I reviewed the plan, I reviewed the strategy, and it seems pretty solid to me. In our business, it’s really about execution, and that’s executing with and through our partner communities. So a lot of focus on — how do we accelerate and enable partners to be more successful in the marketplace? I think our programs are pretty solid. Of course, we’ll tweak as time allows and the necessity happens, so we’re tweaking our programs, but I’m real excited about what we have to offer. I really think it’s back to that feedback I spoke of earlier, from our survey, and certainly feedback I heard loud and clear last week while in London at our partner advisory board. Our partner advisory board is about awareness. How can we speed up that process of helping our partners deliver our solutions messaging downstream to the end-user community and making them aware of the opportunities that we have to support them at Brocade? Next three quarters — I’m one quarter in now — let’s go execute. … We’ll refine and tweak our programs and tools and processes as we move forward, but clearly there’s a plan in place and I’m supportive of it. Now it’s just about execution.

CP: If you were asked to make a prediction or forecast what you think will happen with the channel as a whole, where do you see it going?

PP: It’s a great question, and obviously my response would be a broader scope and role given my 19 years supporting distribution. I see it growing and becoming even …

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… more valuable as the adoption of cloud and adoption of new IT delivery vehicles, cloud being one. I think the true solutions-oriented partners and those that have great IT skills and are really trusted advisers with their users stand to be even stronger. I’ve been in this industry long enough that I’ve heard numerous stories around the demise of the distributor or the demise of the reseller, and if anything I think those communities have gotten stronger.

Obviously we’re seeing some consolidation here at the top, so a lot of the bigger guys are continuing to consolidate. Also I would say in the midmarket space, we’re seeing a proliferation of new partners and new solution providers that have a unique set of skills and they’re really built around consultative delivery, delivering IT consultative services. And so products and solutions and software are just an element of that delivery. Whereas 10 or 15 years ago, a lot of the resellers, quite frankly, cut their teeth around selling products and making a profit margin on those products predominately, whereas if your look at the majority of those midmarket partners and the vast majority of their revenue and certainly of their profit streams today are coming from the consultative services that they’re offering, and that is the thing that is unique about Brocade. Our products and solutions offer a great opportunity for our partners to drive services with their end users, and so we’re really excited about those that are taking advantage of that today and obviously our objective is to figure out how to expand that to a broader segment of the market as we move forward.

CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the channel or about Brocade?

PP: We’re trying to build and in the process of building a great, great channel business at Brocade, and we want to be the partner of choice. Our DNA is built from 20 years of partnering, and we want to continue to do that. We think we’re in a very, very unique position today, which is, while we have a household name, we still have awareness opportunities around the breadth of our solutions offering, so we’re excited about the future. We’re excited about the space we play in, excited about our software business and how it’s growing and how it will play a more significant role in the future, and really, really excited about the market that we play in. Our products are all built from an open-standards perspective, so our products really, really go well with a lot of the Tier 1 and enterprise vendors that are in the marketplace, so we’re in a pretty unique position there. It’s all about driving efficiency in an open-standard way that ultimately will drive economies of scale downstream for the end-user community. So the thing I’m excited about is partnering with Brocade. We have a unique offering, and we want to do everything we can to support the partner community.


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