Eyeing Regional growth

Channel Middle East spoke to George DeBono, the new general manager at Red Hat Middle East and Africa on his vision for the company and how the open-source software vendor is cementing its channel presence and growing its footprint in the region.

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Eyeing Regional growth
By  Manda Banda Published  February 12, 2012

Channel Middle East spoke to George DeBono, the new general manager at Red Hat Middle East and Africa on his vision for the company and how the open-source software vendor is cementing its channel presence and growing its footprint in the region.

Channel: You have taken on the role as regional GM at Red Hat recently. What is your vision for the company in the Middle East region?

George DeBono: The vision for Red Hat business in the Middle East is to firstly raise awareness of the advantages that open-source and open standards bring to organisations. This is crucial and if we can execute this successfully, it will help our various channel partners to grow their businesses.

Channel: What is Red Hat’s channel strategy in the Middle East region and which geographies does the Dubai head office address?

George DeBono: Out of our office in Dubai, we cover the Middle East and North Africa regions. Our current strategy is to refocus on a few key partners who have already developed business practices and skills, both technical and sales, in the open-source arena. Additionally, we will continue to recruit and educate those additional channel organisations that are willing to embrace our solutions.

Channel: What has been the company’s focus for 2011 with your channel partners in the region?

George DeBono: My focus, given the fact that I have just arrived in the Middle East, has been to get to know the major players. The team and I have developed a plan around growth, which has already required me to add resources to our ever growing channel team.

Channel: The role of a distributor is constantly changing. How are you engaging with your distribution partners in the region?

George DeBono: We are working very closely with our distributors to ensure that they are delivering the right support to the channel ecosystem, while also evangelising the benefits of open source. My team and I hold regular reviews along all sides of our businesses, from sales pipeline reviews to marketing and lead allocation. This is being done in order to ensure that we stay very closely aligned to our distribution partners.

Channel: Does Red Hat have any direct accounts that it handles in the MENA region?
George DeBono: We have recently implemented a key accounts strategy, where we are beginning to work with a few key market maker accounts across the region. Whilst on the surface, this may appear to be in conflict with our partners, the reality is that it works very well for our channel. Our objective with key accounts is to help build and drive an overall account strategy, and by being able to answer client pain points. We still remain a 100% channel based fulfilment business.

Channel: What is the split of your channel ecosystem in the Middle East?

George DeBono: The core of the business is focused around the reseller community. However, given the nature of our products, in 99.9% of all cases, there will be an ISV’s solution driving the requirement, and an IHV’s involvement around the platform.
 : Has Red Hat launched its various partner programmes in the Middle East region?
George DeBono: We are currently reviewing all our programmes to determine which are best suited to our market. This will be an ever evolving, ongoing process. We will leverage from the successes of the various programmes we have already run but also look to other regions to see what works and modify it for our partners here.

Channel: How many Red Hat certified partners do you have on your books in the Middle East region?

George DeBono: Across the various levels we have in our partner programme, we currently maintain in excess of 200 active solution provider partners.

Channel: How important is the system builder to your business?

George DeBono: Hardware is a key element because if there is no hardware, then we have no opportunity. Even with the talk around cloud, it must be remembered that cloud too is just a delivery platform, and as such requires hardware.

Channel: How challenging is the Middle East software market?

George DeBono: Over the last three years, we have seen an increase in interest in our offerings, not just here, but globally. This is in part due to our value proposition and subscription based model, which provides customers across the board, significant savings whilst delivering an enterprise-ready set of offerings in all industry verticals.

Channel: What is your perception of the operating systems market at the present time?

George DeBono: Buoyant, the increased investment that the multinationals are making in the region is resulting in new data centres, IT projects and the like. This investment is due in a large part to the growing business requirement to expand local companies.

Channel: Who do you consider as your biggest competitor in the Middle East?

George DeBono: This is a good question. In terms of our biggest competitor, in some respects it is ourselves. Many companies in the region are using community based variants of our offerings, without understanding the underlying risks of this strategy. Whilst these variants are very close and in fact lead our enterprise certified versions, they are in fact supported by a community of developers on a ‘best efforts’ basis. What Red Hat provides for both our infrastructure and middleware products is a stable, certified, endorsed environment that is available to companies.

Channel: Is the software market moving towards cloud-based offerings?

George DeBono: There is a lot of noise around cloud-based computing at the moment, but it is really more mist than cloud right now. Most organisations have not defined what cloud means to them, let alone begun to truly understand what they can do with cloud. The positive thing is that most people I speak to about cloud understand the risks that cloud brings as well as the benefit.

Channel: Out of the solutions that Red Hat offers at the moment, where do you expect maximum growth?

George DeBono: Given the Middle East’s status as an emerging market, we are seeing significant growth and interest in all our offerings, across the region. In some countries the growth is being driven by infrastructure needs, in others it is the maturing of the middleware market, and others that are more developed, it is around technologies such as virtualisation that are at the forefront of the current industry direction.

Channel: What can your Middle East partners expect from Red Hat in the next 12 to 18 months?

George DeBono: More visibility and more aggression in the entire Middle East geography. We need to make the various countries in the region know that we are here, are serious about the market, and that there are great partners out there than can help them deploy our offerings successfully.

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