As promised, Brocade made several technology announcements earlier this week at the Brocade Technology Summit 2011 in Silicon Valley. The company's newest technologies -- which center on cloud optimization, Ethernet enhancement and increased Fibre Channel capacity -- present a great opportunity for Brocade's VARs to expand their client bases and better serve the needs of current customers. I was able to catch up with Brocade Vice President of Worldwide Channels Barbara Spicek to find out what Brocade expects from its channel partners as a result of the company's most recent innovations, and what Brocade will do to help its partners maximize their sales potential.

Spicek stressed that Brocade channel partners need to be skilled in the company's new technology before they can effectively sell it. To that end, Brocade has been offering educational services to its channel partners since Fall 2003, and last year shifted its channel program to a skills-based incentive model. The company expects to use those same web-based training and on-site training services to train its VARs on the latest Brocade technology.

"Technology moves fast, so we need our partners to stay skilled and be able to adapt," said Spicek, noting also that Brocade offers free training for its Elite status channel partners. The education requirements for the company's channel partners vary based on company size and partner status -- some of the lower-level partners have to pay more for training programs, but some of that cost should soon be alleviated by the Avnet Accelerator Program -- a program the distributor launched in March 2011 to educate resellers and on Brocade's VDX switches and VCS technology.

The program was born out of Avnet Technology Solutions joining the Brocade Alliance Partner Network in June 2009. Avnet Vice President of Marketing Cheryl Neal said the accelerator program is a benefit to Brocade partners and Avnet's partnership with Brocade is a benefit to the channel as a whole.

"Both companies do a really good job of embracing each other's strengths," she said. "The Avnet Accelerator Program is in place so that together our companies can recruit partners with high-growth potential. It's a dual investment -- we leverage Brocade's technology and Avnet's expertise."

Spicek noted also that many of Brocade's moves over the past few years have been the result of feedback from its partners. The company holds regular forums with its partners and hosts channel councils every six months with all of its partners globally -- of which 60 percent are in North America; 30 percent are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and 10 percent are in Asia Pacific (APAC). Brocade also holds a channel advisory board meeting every June to solicit feedback.

She noted Brocade is working hard to address the one overarching message from its partners: "We keep hearing back from partners that they need more enablement," she said, hence the continued focus on training. "The most success we can have in this market is when we invest in marketing and training our channel partners."

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