ViaWest, which promotes colocation, cloud and managed services, has enhanced its channel partner program. The ViaWest Partner Connect Program is designed for agents, systems integrators, VARs and brokers. So what's unique? Senior VP of Sales and Marketing Christopher Rajiah points to the program's flexibility. For instance, VARs and MSPs can use colocation services as a stepping stone to ViaWest's full-blown cloud and managed services.

Rajiah joined ViaWest in April 2013 to drive direct and indirect sales. He previously led channel sales at Rackspace and Extreme Networks -- giving him a unique view on how channel partners have evolved beyond product reselling toward hosted and cloud services.

Rajiah also sees a middle ground emerging: Aside from test and dev activities, many customers aren't ready to fully "let go" of their hardware or specialized applications. "A lot of companies have specialized applications, and they want to remain 'close' to their servers without managing all of the data center infrastructure," said Rajiah. That's where ViaWest's colocation services, available through channel partners, enter the picture.

The colocation services, available through ViaWest's 24 data centers, provide redundant power, broadband, physical and IT security, and other reliability capabilities that many businesses can no longer afford to build out or maintain on their own. When customers are ready to push beyond colocation, partners can offer ViaWest's cloud and managed services.

ViaWest Partner Program: Here's What's New

ViaWest says its enhanced partner program includes a range of automation tools for channel partners. Examples include:

  • A portal to register and track client opportunities;
  • Platinum, Gold and Silver levels to reflect a partner’s status in the program;
  • compensation plans with flexible options to further increase payouts, including upfront payments, a pay-for-life option and accelerators based on performanc;
  • flexibility with minimal rules of business engagement; and
  • training and sales tools.

"The tools give partners transparency. If you take a look at what we've built and delivered, it's a huge investment in terms of company focus," said Rajiah.

Technology Plus Talent

The investment includes a growing channel team. A few examples: Sean McCaffery, an Avaya and Rackspace veteran, joined ViaWest in July. Robert Fuller, president of Cycle Planning LLC, is another Rackspace veteran who has consulted on ViaWest's partner program enhancements. "We're doubling down on the channel account manager role here as well," said Rajiah.

Also, watch for a very "localized" approach to partner support. An example: As the company enters the Phoenix market, local ViaWest leaders will embrace local channel partners to build close business relationships.

Decision Day

What attracted Rajiah to ViaWest? The three-part answer involves:

  • Executive Leadership: Rajiah was impressied with the 325-person company's overall leadership, from the executive suite on down. Plus, he believes ViaWest has shown a great ability to execute.
  • Market Opportunity: The combination of colocation, managed and cloud services provides three prime areas for growth.
  • Individual Commitments to the Company: Of the 325 employees, 110 have been with ViaWest five years or more, notes Rajiah. "You just don't see that type of employee commitment in many companies today," he added.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Admittedly, the market is crowded with cloud services providers (CSPs) building partner programs. Customers are also buzzing about opportunities with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Windows Azure and other massive public clouds. But there again, Rajiah sees an opportunity to differentiate. Working with Amazon requires a very technical skill set and offers limited partner tools, he asserts. On the flip side, Microsoft's approach is so automated that partners may worry about losing customer control. 

"We see the market swinging our way," said Rajiah. "Our colocation services provide a unique stepping stone to cloud and managed services."