Why FSA One Frameworks? A Little Background and Perspective
Converged Infrastructure, in its various forms, has come from nowhere (actually, it has cycled back to relevance after a long period of dormancy, but that’s a subject for another blog) to take the IT industry by storm over the course of the last six years or so. Proprietary stacks, multi-vendor stacks, open stacks, built-for-purpose appliances, and most recently Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) have each carved out their respective fan bases and niches, and continue to command ever-larger shares of IT infrastructure expenditures. FlexPod, the best-of-breed multi-vendor stack from NetApp and Cisco, historically representing the industry’s strongest combination of flexibility and validated design portfolio, has consistently led the field in many categories, including shipped units, number of validated designs, and customer satisfaction.
FlexPod has served as a powerful sales vehicle for NetApp, Cisco, and our joint datacenter partners, as well as a value accelerant for our joint customers. It has shone brightly as perhaps NetApp’s greatest success story of the past five years. It has historically boasted large growth numbers, and represents an ever-increasing portion of NetApp’s overall sales. But the success has not been universally shared by all VAR partners. FlexPod’s renowned flexibility and versatility, so prized by customers looking to leverage validated designs even as they custom fit a solution to their environment, necessarily engenders some complexity in the sales and design process, which can add unwanted delays to the sales cycle.
This complexity and delay has led some partners – particularly smaller partners with limited technical resources – to avoid pitching FlexPod in most sales opportunities, even though such an approach leaves money on the table and fails to capture the stickiness and account control available to full-solution vendors. The FSA One Frameworks initiative and solution set, built and led by Avnet and supported by NetApp and Cisco, accelerates and simplifies the FlexPod sales motion, speeding time to value for customers and facilitating our joint data center partners’ converged infrastructure sales efforts and campaigns.
What is FSA One Frameworks?
So what is FSA One Frameworks? Very specifically, FSA One is the accelerated sales motion put in place to simplify and accelerate the FlexPod sales cycle, and FSA One Frameworks includes a specific set of (eight, initially) pre-designed, pre-sized, pre-validated, and fully integrated FlexPod configurations, ranging in size from Entry thru Large, and sized for a set of common applications including server virtualization, virtual desktop, and messaging.
This set of FSA One Frameworks configurations includes All-Flash configs, traditional disk configs, and hybrids. One configuration is specifically designed to serve as the singular platform for the initial release of the new automated provisioning software (more on this below), with later versions of the software slated to target the remaining FSA One Frameworks configurations. Unlike with the traditional FlexPod sales model, each of these configurations is represented by a single distributor SKU, with aggressive, pre-approved pricing, to facilitate fast and easy quoting.
What Problems are we Trying to Solve with FSA One?
As stated above, FlexPod has served the NetApp/Cisco datacenter partner community very well for over five years. Still, the FlexPod sales motion is non-trivial, and can sometimes be complex and slow-moving, involving as it does products and services from multiple vendors and sales organizations. For example, beginning with the registration request and continuing thru pricing and quoting, the VAR partner must navigate at least two set of tools, sales teams, and processes. It’s not uncommon for a VAR partner to successfully register the NetApp piece, but not the Cisco piece, or vice versa, which can greatly inhibit the sales effort.
Then there is design and configuration. Though the design process is governed and guided by the validated design documents, those documents are lengthy, technical, and detailed, and a design process spanning many weeks is not unusual.
Finally, with integration, though mileage may vary from partner to partner, few reseller partners have the facilities and experience to match the world-class integration expertise of the FlexPod Services by Avnet (FSA) team, and so integration timeframes can be lengthy and unpredictable, and devour valuable technical resource hours, which might be better directed to deliver higher-level, higher-margin services to customers, or to advance pre-sales efforts. Even the rebate process, with its requirements for advance logging of opportunities, rebate claim submission, and post-sale validation, is replete with potential delay and complexity.
Experiences with such complexity and delay shrink the pool of partners willing and able to navigate the FlexPod sales process, despite the extensive profitability and other advantages inherent in the sale of converged infrastructure solutions.
FSA One can relieve this transactional complexity for partners, while bringing additional value to the customer as well. In Part 2 of this article, I’ll explore these topics – look for it next week!