Channel Chat: Kevin O’Connor, Sungard Availability Services
11 April 2016 | 0
“We kick-started the recovery market in the late 1970s.” So says Kevin O’Connor, head of channel for Ireland at Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) when he’s asked to give a brief summary of the company’s history. That’s a pretty big claim but there’s no doubt the company has a long history. Sungard AS began life as part of SunGard Data Systems (SDS), formed in 1983 following a leveraged buy-out of a division of Sun Oil Company. After going public in 1986, SunGard Data Systems extended its reach into Europe by acquiring Comdisco’s business continuity services in 2001, followed by the take overs of Guardian IT in 2002 and Inflow in 2005.
SDS went private in 2005 in a $11.4 billion leveraged buy-out, the second largest on record at the time. The company snapped up the Irish hosted infrastructure provider of managed services and cloud offerings, 365 Hosting Limited, in 2010. Four years later, Sungard AS became an independent operating firm after splitting from SDS, with annual revenues of around $1.4 billion.
“The message we’re getting back from partners is that they don’t see a competitive offering to exactly what we do in the market”
While the company’s heritage is in disaster recovery services, in recognition of businesses’ evolving technology demands and the need to maintain market availability whatever happens, it provides a wealth of services to keep customers’ mission critical IT running. So, in addition to recovery, production availability solutions include enterprise cloud, application management and IT consulting. It markets itself as a business that builds and runs resilient and available production environments that give companies the agility they need to compete cost-effectively in the market and deliver against desired business outcomes. Strategic partners include Citrix, Cisco and NetApp.
Even before it became independent, the company had been running a very successful partner programme in North America for several years. It has now replicated that program in EMEA and established a partner portal which is already live and a number of organisations have signed up to become partners.
Why now? “Locally we’ve been working with some organisations in a partnership model,” O’Connor says, but since it became an independent company there has been a move to standardise programmes and initiatives globally to bring a unified partner message to the market. He is hopeful that the vendor will have numerous partners over time, although he accepts that, as with any channel engagement, the 80:20 rule in terms of numbers and revenues will apply.
Until recently, the target market for Sungard AS would have been ‘born in the cloud’ companies and those that have a mission critical requirement to transact online. But things are changing. The attraction for partners is that more of their customers are taking a cloud-first approach when it comes to IT investments instead of automatically renewing their existing IT equipment.
“We are taking the expertise and experience we have in the market with hybrid IT and cloud solutions – hybrid IT is very much the ‘new normal’ for organisations today – and we have sales, pre-sales, architecture and product specialists that we can bring to our partners to help them to uncover opportunities and turn them into revenue,” O’Connor explains.
“Organisations are driving margin from point sales solutions for private cloud to selling managed cloud solutions through Sungard AS. Any partners selling infrastructure as a point solution, or private cloud as a point solution, can turn it into an opex model to address the market demand,” he adds. “They can deliver a recovery solution for on-site private cloud or a true hybrid IT or cloud solution. Partners can gain more margin and revenue by selling managed cloud solutions through Sungard AS than by selling traditional tin.”
Steady and trusted
O’Connor is keen to stress the company’s channel credentials and assure prospective resellers that it will be a steady and trusted partner. Companies that request to be partners through the partner portal can quickly get access to selling and marketing tools, proposal templates and can register leads and opportunities. They are guaranteed ownership and exclusive rights to that lead for six months. A direct sales person is assigned to help the partner make the sale.
He says that any partner with a consultative engagement model is likely to be a good fit for Sungard AS. “Traditionally, our target market is medium sized businesses that require SLAs, mission critical IT and availability. We’ve been providing a self-managed, multi-tenant and private cloud environment to customers over the last 10 years; now with our new cloud platform we can provide a managed capability to the market as well.”
The company recently opened a data centre with Digital Realty, the only certified tier 3 facility in Ireland according to O’Connor, which is where the new cloud platform is hosted. Sungard AS places a strong emphasis on data sovereignty so any services deployed on the Dublin platform will remain on the Dublin platform.
With Sungard AS having made the capital investments in the people, processes and technologies that underpin its cloud platform, partners can deliver specified SLAs and terms and conditions to customers without needing to make the investment themselves. “The margin they can get through this is pure profit,” O’Connor claims.
There are two levels of partner. Solution partners can resell Sungard AS services in their own contracts whereas associate partners can refer services to Sungard AS which will fulfill the deal and give the partner monthly recurring revenues. O’Connor stresses that partners can choose either category depending on the deal so that solution partners can work on an associate basis for specific customers if that suits them better.
Sungard AS has appointed Exertis as its Irish distributor. O’Connor says Exertis will give it more reach into the market and partners are comfortable and used to working through the distribution model. The vendor was also impressed with the way Exertis has successfully managed the Cisco partner base in Ireland.
If prospective partners still remain to be convinced, O’Connor is quick to emphasise that the Sungard AS offering is different to anything else. “The message we’re getting back from partners is that they don’t see a competitive offering to exactly what we do in the market,” he remarks. “We’re one of the few companies with an Irish presence and a global reach. We have a mature, defined offering and we’re bringing something new to the partner community in Ireland.”