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A few weeks ago, at one of our recent NetApp Agile Data Infrastructure events, I got talking to Christian Fuhrmann. He runs the Mid-size business team for NetApp in Europe, Middle East & Africa.  We discussed how the approach to selling NetApp has changed over the time he’s been here (nearly 12 years!), but also how many things stayed absolutely the same – such as the need to try NetApp innovation, before you believe it & buy it. I asked him to write a guest blog post on the subject. Here it is….



I am 42 years old. Six more years and IT jobs will account for half of my life!!  With an industrial engineering background, I remember I hated all the lessons around computers during University – especially Computer Aided Design (CAD). Guess what: my first job was at Silicon Graphics selling graphics workstations to the CAD market. That was in 1995. Then, at the end of 2001, I joined NetApp and at first I was admittedly a little bit disappointed that I should just sell magnetic disks spinning inside some box. What is that compared to a 3D graphics workstation?? But step by step my manager taught me about the unique features and a very efficient way to sell the benefits of these features to the customers. That is what I did for the following 3 years before running the Channel in NetApp’s German Field organization for five years, where in the last two years I helped start the focused Midsize Business approach.

Midsize Business is now my responsibility on the EMEA level for the last three years, starting with a product focus on our FAS2000 business, then adding the Silver Partner development (we now have 1000s of them) and now the focus is really on growing the customer segment of Midsize Businesses (MSB). MSB customers really need nearly everything in a simplified way, so they can gain as many efficiencies and synergies as possible. How we can show them the NetApp benefits to their datacenter operations and more importantly to their business itself? It helps to look back to the way we were approaching customers in the early NetApp days.


How did we sell NetApp 10 years ago? We had a very standardized approach, as we had “only” a NAS device - the greatest storage device in the world, but just for Unix File-serving. The pitch went like this: Just Unix File-serving, but with the best technology available: Snapshots with no performance penalty and just a tiny space reserve, self-rebooting in seconds after a power outage to continue where it stopped before, if restore was needed entire volumes in seconds versus hours, 99.999% availability, ability to add disks on the fly without sacrificing performance or RAID protection. For most prospects, this sounded too good to be true. Many other vendors at that time promised a lot but did not keep their promises. But instead of just talking about it, it was even better when we brought a demo-system (which we had in the trunk of our cars) and it was plug and play for the customers. In many cases they kept the demo system right away.


FAST FORWARD. Today, NetApp System functionality applies throughout the data center. Yes, we still do file services, but any application, any data type, any protocol is welcome today as well. And we happily accommodate all of it in just one system! In order to make it easier to understand where a customer stands today, we can group the customer’s data requirements in four steps:

  1. STORE DATA (“I have a project and need just 5 TB of cheap disk space”).
  2. PROTECT DATA (“I want to make sure my Backup and especially the Restore and also Archiving runs smoothly and with no headaches for me”).
  3. MANAGE DATA (“There’s more around data than just the disks. Data runs through the network, is produced by applications and processed by servers. How can I integrate and automate it all?”).
  4. SCALE (“I hear about the CLOUD all the time. How can I be prepared, how can I take advantage and does it bring the flexibility I need for managing my data as I want it to be managed?”).

That is the message. Let someone explain the 4 Steps in a white boarding session and learn about all the benefits, especially for MSB customers.


So how do we handle the demo systems today, as we are touching thousands more customers, especially in the Midsize Business? We just virtualized it. So if you are interested to know, how NetApp systems REALLY work, if you want to try it out with no risk in your own environment instead of listening to what other vendors MAY SAY about NetApp, you can download a fully-featured 90-day demo license of our storage OS, install it within a VMware vSphere environment and run it productively. So no need to wait for someone to bring and install a physical Demo system any more. And because our (physical) storage systems run exactly the same Data ONTAP OS, you have the same look and feel once you decide it is the right solution for you.


  • Follow Christian on Twitter: @RealChrifu


Register to download your free NetApp and VMware trial today!

The demo programme Christian talks about above is called the VMware / NetApp Test Drive. Full details are available here.


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