Red Hat expands partner program to juice reseller business

The company has added a new partner designation and new benefits to encourage partners to join the program

Red Hat has expanded its partner program to give companies more options for how they can work with the Linux vendor, more ways to demonstrate their areas of product expertise to customers and more discounts on product pricing, the company said Monday.

Red Hat has added a new level of partnership to the program -- premier business partner -- in addition to existing "advanced" and "ready" classifications. Premier is for expert business partners with a significant investment in delivering IT projects that focus on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or JBoss middleware.

Premier partners are for companies that want a long-term strategic relationship with Red Hat and include a number of special benefits from Red Hat, said Roger Egan, vice president of the North America channel for Red Hat.

Those benefits include discounts on products and technical training, help with demand-generation, market development funds, participation in a partner advisory board, a personally assigned channel account manager and dedicated contacts within Red Hat to manage their partnerships.

"In order to be competitive in the marketplace and to incent business partners across North America to invest in Red Hat and open source, we added this new tier with a new level of benefits to the program," Egan said. He added that the new partner designation is a way to reward customers who have dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to certify themselves on its products and are committed to building open-source projects.

Red Hat's existing "ready" level is for entry-level partners who want to start working with the vendor, and "advanced" is for partners who have implemented projects using RHEL or JBoss. Through changes to the program, those partners also get new benefits, Egan said.

For example, Red Hat also extended an existing deal registration program -- through which Red Hat partners can identify new business and register a new customer -- to all partners, Egan said. Previously, only 48 top partners were using the program.

Through the deal registration program, premier partners get a 20 percent discount on products they acquire from Red Hat for customers registered in the program; advanced partners get a 15 percent discount; and ready partners get a 10 percent discount.

Red Hat has about 1,500 North American channel partners, a number that has grown from 300 in the past two-and-a-half years, Egan said.

He said that Red Hat understands the value of growing its network of partners and keeping them happy because it depends on them to help broaden the reach of the company's open-source software portfolio. Though Linux is a mainstream enterprise technology, Red Hat still mainly competes with much larger and more established proprietary-software vendors.

Additionally, as part of changes to its partner program, Red Hat has added new specializations so partners can differentiate themselves based on specific technology skill sets they've developed. The new specializations are infrastructure, middleware and virtualization, and each requires a certain commitment from partners in terms of technicians and sales people devoted to each area.

To qualify for the infrastructure specialization, partners must have proven expertise in RHEL Advanced Platform, Red Hat Network Satellite, Red Hat Global File System, Red Hat Cluster Suite and Red Hat MRG, and have at least two Channel Sales Certified employees on staff and one Red Hat Certified Technician, the company said.

The middleware specialization is for partners who specialize in building projects on JBoss Enterprise Middleware. Those partners must have at least two Channel Middleware Sales Certified people on staff, and one JBoss Administrator.

Partners who want to qualify for the virtualization specialization must have demonstrated expertise in Red Hat's virtualization offerings at both the sales and technical level. They also must have two Channel Sales Certified employees on staff, as well as a Red Hat Certified Engineer who focuses on virtualization training.

In the past few years, Red Hat has steadily been building out its product portfolio beyond the Red Hat Enterprise Linux for which it is most known. Its JBoss middleware business and virtualization software -- the latter a part of the RHEL OS but also a key technology in its own right -- are becoming increasingly more important not only to Red Hat's strategy but also to companies that want to base their entire IT infrastructure on open-source technology.

More information on the new premier designation and changes to Red Hat's partner program is available online. More information about the specializations also can be found on Red Hat's Web site.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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