Certification That Makes Sense

January 29, 2008 at 12:32 am Leave a comment

By Bob Winter

I read an article the other day that described HP’s new certification incentive program for their storage and blade server elite partners. Seems that if partners in either of these elite categories also achieve certification as services elite or enterprise server elite, they are elevated to a higher level: data center elite. Once they do so, they receive double their “growth dollars” (read rebates).

It will be interesting to watch the uptake on this program. With or without the incentives, I think partners will find value in being certified for an infrastructure solution in addition to individual products. End-users want “one throat to choke” accountability for mission critical architectures like their data centers.

Of particular interest will be how many more HP services elite partners this adds to the mix, since the gap between supply and demand of cost-effective data center services is big and growing. In a report made public late last year, Symantec Corp. found that the Global 2000 will have spent more than $6.6 billion annually on data center management services in 2007. The biggest expenses: staffing and managing the growing complexity of corporate data centers. And while the demand for these services is expanding, the budgets most likely are not. Sounds to me like a great opportunity for channel partners who can introduce efficiency into the process.

Certification in general has come back in favor with a lot of channel partners. While certain entry level certifications have become commoditized, there is distinct value in certification to the end-user, channel partner, and vendor. In the past ROI on certifications has been a point of contention between channel partners and vendors. This is particularly true of those certifications which require the partner to purchase and maintain an on premises lab. However, other costs like lost revenue days for training and expensive course materials have been mitigated by vendors who now offer less costly web-based certification training and testing and special funding to pay for lost billable hours. All in all, the payback is not bad. According to an informal poll I conducted with a group of partners I presented to last year, the average ROI for certification is between 4 and 7 months. With vendors taking a more aggressive approach, like HP has with their data center elite program, the ROI window could shrink and yields could go up. That’s all good.

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