When I’m presenting the Fueled by NetApp® Service Provider Program, people frequently ask me what common characteristics I see in successful cloud and hosting service providers. As a point of reference, I talk to about 100 to 120 different service providers around the world each year, and so do the other Fueled by NetApp team members. The other team members and I compared notes, and we came up with these four common characteristics:

  1. Deep customer knowledge
  2. Differentiation
  3. Focus on business outcomes
  4. Multicloud deployment

Deep Customer Knowledge

You need to know your customer better than anyone else does. This previous blog post goes into quite a bit of detail about how you get to know your customers and how you can keep knowing them throughout their entire lifecycle. Here’s a summary of what you should know about your customer:

  • Their industry vertical, position, and supply chain
  • Who their own customers are and why their customers buy from them
  • Application use cases—how the application delivers value to their business
  • What your customer is trying to achieve—what business outcomes they are delivering


As my children might say with sarcasm, “Uh, no kidding, Mom!” Yes, I am stating the obvious, but this characteristic builds on the first point of knowing your customer. When you know who your customers are, what they’re achieving with your help, and how your help better enables their customers, you have a recipe for bringing in more of your own customers. It’s not about being a little something to everyone; it’s about being deeply meaningful to a specific set of customers. The blog post that I mentioned in characteristic 1 also talks about this topic.


In summary, differentiation requires:

  • Focusing on what you know about your customers
  • Creating meaningful SLAs
  • Being narrow and deep versus being wide and shallow
  • Being the best in your space

Focus on Business Outcomes

As Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Levitt said it more than 30 years ago, but his observation has never been truer, especially when it comes to IT services. With all the changes—cloud, software-defined, mode 2, third platform—businesses are becoming less interested in how it happens and are more interested in the result. This characteristic, too, builds on the previous one, because after you are differentiated, you can truly explain the outcomes that your customers are achieving.


Being focused on business outcomes includes:

  • Knowing what business improvements the customer should expect from buying your services
  • Focusing on the result, not on the service or the technology

Multicloud Deployments

A significant trend in the industry is not to fight the hyperscalers but to work with them by using their infrastructure platforms where and when it makes the most sense for a customer. This collaboration means having a hyperscaler-managed service that a customer can use in addition to your own infrastructure services.


At a high level, we typically see some mix of services that includes private cloud (dedicated), virtual private cloud (VMware or OpenStack), and hyperscaler cloud management. As a service provider, you can take advantage of the hyperscaler pricing while still maintaining close control over the data. For example, you can use compute nodes in Amazon Web Services (AWS) while maintaining the data within your infrastructure, delivering compute cost savings and data jurisdiction.


The essence of multicloud deployments includes:

  • Use of the best infrastructure for the application
  • Dedicated cloud, virtual private cloud, and hyperscale cloud
  • The ability to mix and match

Start Selling More

Engage the Fueled by NetApp team today. It won’t cost you anything, and we can help you:

  • Monetize your infrastructure.
  • Streamline operations.
  • Win more applications.
  • Reduce risk.

We can help you increase your business. Service providers who participate in the Fueled by NetApp program sell 32% more storage than providers who don’t. Would you like to sell more? Email us.

Mara McMahon

Mara McMahon is the Head of Partner and Service Provider Go-to-Market at NetApp delivered through the Fueled by NetApp program. She is a service provider expert in GTM activities with a maniacal focus on maximizing return on investment from infrastructure assets. Mara serves as a business consultant to partners and service providers across the globe through the Fueled by NetApp program which is a free service designed to ensure the desired business outcomes resulting from NetApp technology purchase are achieved.

Mara has been working at NetApp (formerly SolidFire) for over five years and prior to SolidFire/NetApp, spent a number of years in product marketing and product management at a variety of service providers around the world including Cable & Wireless, SAVVIS, Verizon and Tata Communications. She has over 20 years’ experience working in executive, Product Management and Product Marketing roles.

Mara has a BS from Wittenberg University and an MBA in marketing from The Kogod School of Business, American University. Mara looks forward to working with you in maximizing your ROI.

Add comment