As Commvault turns on SaaS, channel plans kick into gear

As Commvault turns on SaaS, channel plans kick into gear

Enhanced partner strategy anchored around Metallic offering

Rachel Ler (Commvault)

Rachel Ler (Commvault)

Credit: Commvault

Commvault is pressing ahead with plans to drive software-as-a-service (SaaS) adoption via the channel, backed by the pursuit of new customer logos and the addition of a regionally focused distribution strategy.

The move is anchored around Metallic, a SaaS offering first unveiled in late 2019 and recently enhanced with storage, back-up and security features. With the product now set to be rolled out across key Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) markets - following a recent launch in Australia and New Zealand - the data management vendor is laying the foundations to accelerate uptake via the supply chain.

“We’re taking a very deliberate approach to the channel, especially as we roll out our SaaS product because traditional, large-scale data centre partners are not used to that route to market,” said Rachel Ler, vice president and general manager, APJ at Commvault.

When outlining plans to Channel Asia, Ler - appointed to the regional role in early January - said the vendor is seeking differentiation across the ecosystem to maximise the potential of Metallic, spanning endpoint, Office 365 and enterprise workloads.

“If you break these three areas down in silos, we expect to have different partners within each space,” she added. “For example, endpoint protection partners don’t usually operate within the data centre space meaning we have to be purposeful about how we on-board these new partners, our route to market and how we incentivise the channel.”

Central to such efforts will be the appointment of a regional distributor to capture emerging opportunities specific to SaaS and cloud, evident through the imminent launch of a request for proposal (RFP) process across APJ.

“We recognise that within the SaaS arena, we need a regional distributor who operates a marketplace which allows wider reach and the ability to manage the entire customer lifecycle,” Ler explained. “Customer success is key in a SaaS world and we want to avoid the risk of losing an end-user at the point of renewal, rather creating ongoing stickiness through our Metallic product.”

In a direct message to the channel however, Ler was quick to stress that no plans are in place to disrupt current or existing distributor alliances, rather enhance indirect capabilities via a more regionally focused strategy. In addition to Metallic, the decision to reshape partner priorities is also motivated by a desire to operate within the channel slipstream of leading hyperscalers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google Cloud.

“For any channel partnership to be meaningful and fruitful, this process takes 9-12 months of investment,” she said. “We need to be realistic in our expectation and that’s why we need to constantly maintain the strategy of our route to market and motivate our partner ecosystem to stay loyal with us.

“This is fundamentally important. Every channel partner has many choices meaning we must drive stickiness and loyalty to Commvault.”

The move comes weeks after Dino Soepono - former regional vice president of partners and alliances at Commvault - joined Veeam as new senior director of strategic alliances across APJ.

As revealed by Channel Asia, respective regional vice presidents are currently stepping in to cover the in-country partner and alliances collaboration amid plans to seek a successor.

“We would like to thank Dino for his leadership on our channel partner and alliances collaboration during his tenure with Commvault,” a statement from Commvault read at the time. “We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

New customer logos

In looking back on a whirlwind 9-12 months, Ler acknowledged that Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation agendas across the region, condensing multi-year projects into months and weeks. As a result, data is “scattered all over the place” which in turn continues to heighten demand for multi-cloud, security and data management solutions.

“Cyber is a top priority because of the rise in remote working but also data management with a particular focus on data analytics,” Ler observed. “Customers want to understand how to maximise data in the cloud which provides Commvault with a unique opportunity to capitalise.

“If you look at our third quarter results, we had a record quarter. Our workload story continues to resonate with customers because if you only focus on the traditional areas of data protection, that’s no longer enticing enough.”

During the three-month period ending 31 December 2020, revenues totalled US$188 million, representing an increase of seven per cent year-over-year. Software and products revenue stood at $88.6 million - an increase of 16 per cent year-over-year - which was chiefly driven by a 19 per cent increase in revenue from larger deals, viewed as greater than $0.1 million.

“Customers are becoming increasingly interested in deploying SaaS rather than running workloads on-premises,” referenced Ler, acknowledging the value of spinning up services at speed. “Within minutes, offerings can be turned on and because of this, the customer experience is now entirely different."

For Ler, the shift to SaaS has been crucial in ensuring Commvault maintains momentum from a customer acquisition standpoint, resulting in the on-boarding of approximately 1000 new end-users during Covid-19.

“Going after new logos is a priority,” Ler said. “We’re educating our sales team around having workload conversations in the cloud. We’re leveraging our channel in this area and following the launch of our partner program last year, we continue to see momentum due to the increased levels of simplicity and profitability.”

In mid-2020, Commvault revamped partner program capabilities to focus on four key pillars in an effort to offer providers with a modernised framework which offers a bigger bite of the profit margin apple.

As revealed by ARN, the key pillars underpinning the vendor’s new enhanced Partner Advantage program are: innovative products that are partner-ready to sell; a tightly aligned collaborative selling team; a go-to-market strategy and ecosystem that is “built to win”; and a profitable and predictable program.

Back on the acquisition front however, customer recruitment efforts include the flagship account of National Australia Bank (NAB) within the context of multi-cloud, driven by plans to migrate 1000 applications to the cloud within 1000 days.

“NAB views Commvault as an integral part of their data mobility plans whether from on-premises to cloud or cloud to cloud,” Ler added. “Our beachhead into that account was through providing data protection expertise in relation to Salesforce. We initially partnered for a very small element of NAB’s overall strategy and then proved our value and resonated from a multi-cloud perspective.”

According to Ler, the addition of NAB - among many other customers across APJ - validates the widely held market belief that Covid-19 has accelerated cloud adoption irrespective of company size, stature or sector.

“We've talked about cloud for a long time but some customers were hesitant about fully embracing cloud,” she said. “Our sweet spot is cloud and data mobility and that’s how we continue to create a stickiness with customers, of which NAB is a good local example.”

Outside of Australia, Ler said other key focus markets include Singapore, Hong Kong and India in alignment with mobilising SaaS offerings to capitalise on increased levels of cloud investment post-pandemic.

Evolving as an incumbent

With a new financial year fast approaching, ambitions to chase new customer logos - supported by an evolving channel ecosystem - will be dependent on Commvault’s ability to not only strengthen a long-held enterprise foothold, but to also fight off competition from rising vendor up-starts such as Cohesity and Druva among others.

“We receive a solid share of investment within the enterprise,” Ler said. “The new players are strong and credit to the continued innovation, but we’re focused on providing an end-to-end solution.

“To effectively play within the enterprise, your product must be end-to-end rather than going to market with point solutions which require integration. This is less than ideal for customers which is why we continue to resonate from a single pane of glass and platform perspective.”

Reflecting customer sentiment, Ler said Commvault solutions are frequently considered as “Mercedes rather than Toyota”, pointing to a more premium portfolio of data management products.

“Enterprise continues to be a focus but that’s our sweet spot,” she added. “This is how we create differentiation with the customer but going down into mid-market or SMB from enterprise is not as hard as coming up, because the only area you need to address is the price point.

“When you inch up to enterprise from SMB or mid-market, you’re often challenged because large-scale organisations require credibility which takes time to build. We have that credibility.”

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