Storage vendor NetApp (NTAP) has unified its channel program to accommodate how partners operate and work with their customers—spanning VARs, SIs and service and hosting providers—and to supply them with the benefits they need to be successful.

Peter Howard, an eight-year NetApp (NTAP) veteran who ascended to the company’s Worldwide Channel Strategy and Sales vice president post in May and who is regarded internally as a change agent within the channel ranks, said partners are constantly evolving their business models to solve new and increasingly complex customer IT challenges. Accordingly, partner programs must evolve with them.

“NetApp has simply evolved our program for the benefit of our partners and the business opportunities they see for themselves and our mutual customers,” said Howard. “We are encouraging our partners of many types to add new business capabilities and pursue new markets to grow their business. We want to enable our partners to go to market in the way they want to, and to be able to choose the best blend of products and services to address their customers’ changing business needs.”

Howard said NetApp’s program mechanics haven’t changed. Partners don’t need to join a new program; rather, the offering has evolved.

“We are simply making it even easier for them to experiment and adopt new ways of working with their customers—for example, through system integration, additional services, offering managed services or providing 'as a service' offerings,” he said. “This is not a new program, but the evolution of the same program we have had for years.”

Specifically, the reconstructed NetApp partner program will feature one contract for resellers, hosting partners, integrators and MSPs, more marketing funding and lead distribution to partners and an “overall increased ease of doing business with NetApp, from processes to people management and enablement,” Howard said.

NetApp will continue to emphasize services to partners and feature a global partner directory that recognizes competency, investments and partner certifications, he said. And, partners still will be required to adhere to rules of engagement and deal registration.

“The evolution of the program will help partners get total recognition for the full value they bring to customers,” said Howard. “Now more than ever, this recognition is important in this new era of IT selling.”

As an example of the partner program’s new attitude, Howard pointed out how NetApp’s Cloud Service Provider Program was the “first of its kind to align VARs and SPs, showing true commitment to our partners’ business needs.”

NetApp has a solid reputation as a channel-friendly company with some 80 percent of its overall revenue generated from indirect sales. In its most recent Q1 2014 financial performance, the company rebounded to post a 5 percent year-over-year sales increase to $1.516 billion and took in $82 million, or 23 cents a share, in GAAP net income, for a 28 percent bump over the same period last year. In Q4 2013, NetApp laid off some 900 employees—albeit fewer than Wall Street feared—amid sluggish 1 percent year-over-year sales growth to $1.72 billion.