Peter Howard, an eight-year NetApp (NTAP) veteran, has ascended to the company’s channel chief post from his prior position as North America datacenter alliances senior director, where he drove FlexPod sales and developed the company’s channel strategy, including its partner program. His new official title is Worldwide Channel Strategy and Sales vice president.

Howard, who is regarded at NetApp as a change agent—leading companywide initiatives to improve sales performance, channels, products and overall ease of doing business—noted the change in his LinkedIn profile. It also is reflected in his bio for NetApp’s upcoming EMEA Partner and Pathways Summit 2013 in Venice June 17-19, where he is slated to speak in his new capacity as channel chief.

In his new role, Howard is tasked with overseeing development and execution of NetApp’s global channel strategy, specifically to enable channel partners to deliver complex solutions that advance the business growth of NetApp’s customers.

Howard takes over for former NetApp channel chief Todd Palmer, who left in May after five years with the company to take over worldwide sales for network vendor Emulex’s (ELX) Endace unit. NetApp seemingly has managed the transition from Palmer to Howard with the least amount of fanfare possible inasmuch as the company’s new channel chief has been in the slot for more than a month.

NetApp has a solid reputation as a channel-friendly company with some 80 percent of its overall revenue generated from indirect sales. The company’s channel posture should make a favorable environment for Howard to continue its momentum with distributors Arrow (ARW) and Avnet (AVT) as well as its partnership with Cisco Systems (CSCO). And, with a new flash storage initiative taking hold, NetApp officials have said the company plans to look to partners for its biggest gains.

Nevertheless, the company is coming off a Q4 2013 in which it laid off some 900 employees—albeit less than Wall Street feared—and sluggish 1 percent year-over-year sales growth to $1.72 billion. Nick Noviello, NetApp chief financial officer, said in an interview after the vendor’s quarterly report that it will continue to invest in its distribution and technology partners. "This is about looking to where NetApp sees the biggest gain,” Noviello told Barron’s, as noted here. “NetApp is a partner-friendly company. Some of the re-alignment is focused on those partners where we have the biggest potential gain over time,” he said.