We are hearing and reading a lot about disruption these days as organizations adopt cloud and new business models emerge. For some of us, the very word disruption can seem alarming. One dictionary definition describes it as “the act of interrupting”. But what does disruption really mean? In my mind, it means change, and change fosters opportunity.


Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

The technology landscape looks very different now than it did when NetApp was founded in 1992. Shifts in our industry have introduced new ways of thinking. For many companies, some shifts have been more disruptive than others. We have seen the end of some brands, and the creation of seemingly overnight success for others such as AirBnB and Uber. At the broadest level I would classify our industry’s journey as “mainframes to mini’s to micro’s to LANs to WANs to virtualization to cloud”. Each of these shifts have driven both massive disruption and massive opportunity for savvy business leaders to capitalize on.


Who knows what will come next? The only certainty is that there will continue to be change.


At the Root are People

NetApp has never been afraid of disruption. In fact, disruption has been a friend to NetApp – primarily because of our people. Vision, leadership and teams of smart and curious individuals who collaborate well with equally smart and curious partners has been key for us. We have always responded to disruption with new thinking and products that solve customer challenges. I am proud to be part of this organization.


“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney


Data Fabric – A Way to Connect Everything

Take our data fabric strategy as an example. Data is the currency of the digital economy; as people and corporations use data to monetize new services and bring new business paradigms to market. And NetApp is a master at understanding how to manage, move, store and protect data.


While data fabric began as a way to inter-connect storage across disparate NetApp systems, our sales and engineering teams quickly realized data fabric could help our customers leverage cloud and hybrid architectures across multiple vendor platforms. For us, it is simply a way to connect everything – whether it is on NetApp products or not – helping us bring more value to partners and customers.


NetApp with Microsoft

One of our strongest partnerships through the years has been with Microsoft. NetApp and Microsoft product teams work closely on pre-release software so that we can deliver integrated solutions that blend seamlessly into our mutual customers’ data center architectures.


Our customer focus cultures are highly aligned – in fact, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s announcement of Microsoft’s mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, is one that resonates with NetApp. We have always embraced a philosophy of empowerment – for our teams, for our partners and for our customers.


With Microsoft, Through Partners

But broader than technology integration are the sales motions that our alignment with Microsoft enables us to foster. Both Microsoft and NetApp go to market through channel partners; and typically our partners are also Microsoft partners.


But while we go to market together, because we are two different companies, it has often necessitated the need for our partners and our customers to purchase products separately.


That is beginning to change. Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program is “disrupting” how partners deliver more value. For NetApp partners and customers, it is significant. It means we can find new ways to offer our customers more.


Helping Our Partners Deliver More

In the not-so-distant past, one partner would sell a NetApp data and storage solution to a customer; a different partner would sell the software. Even though the two solutions could integrate, it was rare for them to be purchased as a package. Microsoft’s CSP program is enabling partners to combine NetApp solutions with Microsoft solutions and become the single seller. Partners that are successful will differentiate themselves by bundling these offerings into customized packages for an attractive monthly fee.


It’s the reason why Microsoft developed their CSP program. It makes it easier for partners to collaborate and co-sell, and easier for customers to adopt innovative technology customized to their needs, resulting in a much wider group of purchasers for all of us.


We like it. We see the potential to drive even more value and collaborate more effectively with Microsoft and our joint partner channel.


In my next blog posting, I will share my conversation with Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Worldwide Channels and Programs. In that conversation we discussed the thinking behind the Microsoft CSP program and showcase one of our partners, CDW, who are transforming their go-to-market solutions as a result.

Maria Olson

Maria Olson is Vice President, Global & Strategic Alliances for NetApp, and has responsibility for worldwide go-to-market with Alliance partners. Maria and her team have oversight for teaming with the company’s portfolio of Alliance partners and internal teams to bring to market a variety of storage and data management solutions. Her responsibilities include creation of business strategies and plans, strategic alignment within the partner ecosystem and global execution that increases revenue.

Prior to NetApp, Maria was at SAP as Sr. Director of Global Business Development and was instrumental in on-boarding PwC to become a SAP Global Service Partner, and recruited over 50 PwC countries while increasing revenue and doubling pipeline. Maria has also held senior management positions at BEA Systems (acquired by Oracle), Acta Technology (acquired by Business Objects/SAP) and Hewlett Packard. She has extensive experience in business development, alliance management, product management, procurement, and supply chain operations across a variety of lines of business – from printers, interactive TV, cable modems, telecommunications -- to storage products, enterprise software and solutions.

Maria earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of San Diego, and an Executive MBA from Pepperdine University.