Riverbed expands partner program, will add subscription offerings

Riverbed adds new tracks for integrators and managed services, extends rebates and incentives, and is aiming to have all its offerings capable to being offered by partners on a subscription basis by the end of 2016.

Karl Meulema, SVP, Global Channels

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — The IT industry is in the process of massive technological change and disruption, and even a successful company like Riverbed needs to rethink and adapt how it does business. That was a core message delivered here at the company’s second annual partner event, with the company imploring its top partners to make the transition with them. While Riverbed also addressed its plans for change from strategy and technology roadmap perspectives, they outlined significant changes to their partner program to incent and support the changes where they want partners to invest.

“Our conference this year is called Disrupt 2.0 and the whole theme of our conference is about disruption,” said Karl Meulema, senior vice president Global Channels at Riverbed. “We believe the first major disruption was in the 1990s, because of the huge technology advanced then, with companies vanishing in a relatively short time because others built a better business model. This including things like Amazon wiping out bookstores, and was profound technology-driven disruption.”

The new wave of disruption today is more complex, Meulema said.

“In Disrupt 2.0, more than one element of technology is at work.” Meulema identified four – Big Data, mobility, social media, and the changing workforce, in which Internet natives will be the majority by the end of the decade.

“We as suppliers – both vendors AND partners – are impacted by this,” he said. “The channel and supplier world is changing dramatically as well, as we all need to change focus to meet customer demands. The traditional B2B model will continue to exist, but suppliers need to add models to it like managed services to address outcome needs that customers are asking for.”

Riverbed has evolved its position on managed services because of this change, Meulema stressed.

“Last year, we were more focused on building out services on the B2B traditional model,” he said. “We were looking at building out subscription models, but weren’t actively doing it. We weren’t there yet as a company, as we had just come out of being a pure product-selling company.”

Things have changed.

“A lot of people see the urgency around services increasing dramatically over the last 12 months,” Meulema said. “A year later, we ourselves have gone private, and acquired Ocedo with its fantastic as-a- service technology. We want to enable our partners to add new services to their portfolio. We are not in business to drive managed services ourselves but the technology is available for partners to build those models.”

Riverbed’s addition of a Managed Services track to its partner program is designed to help drive managed services to appropriate partners. It also fills an acknowledged gap in the program structure.

“When we created this program back in 2013, the idea was to create a value-based program that was very much based on a resale model,” Meulema said. “But not all partners are resellers and want to go through certification tracks that treat them like resellers. So the idea now is to programmatically build such tracks out, to give the partners in them the same level of discounts a reseller would reach, but just have them get there in a different manner.”

“Managed Service Providers and systems integrators have never participated in our program because when we rolled it out it was just for resellers,” said Bonni-Jo Salazar, Director, Global Partner Programs at Riverbed. “We updated the program in 2014, but it was still just resellers – with the intent we would add in the others later. We are now at that point.”

Salazar said the time is right to add the new tracks because of Riverbed’s new focus on channeling disruption in their favour.

“In addition to having a consistent program and a level playing field, we also wanted these partners fuly enabled to participate in training and certification,” she said. “They could get training before, but not programmatically. Our professional services group gave it to them. But we didn’t hit a large number of people in this way. We want to significantly expand their training now.”

Meulema said the creation of a new track for System Integrators and Outsourcers has the same idea behind it.

“They are a different animal,” he said. “The track has the same logic. We don’t want to force people to jump through hoops that are of no value-add to them.”

Riverbed is also launching an Authorized Consulting Partner track to assist key partners to better deliver Riverbed franchise professional services.

“Partners needed more help there,” Meulema said. “We created this for a more structured approach to share tools, methods and procedures and provide them with help desk support where needed. We are also looking at distributors to actually provide the professional services capabilities to them. They have the capacity and capability, and are non-conflicting as they only work on behalf of their partners.”

Distributors are also being impacted by changes Riverbed is making to its Value-Added Distributor program.

“We made the first change here last year, when we replaced the imprecise and highly subjective way of judging their value add by changing their incents to sell a broader range of offerings,” Meulema said. “We also changed the focus of our own sales people to fewer partners, and changed incents to have the distis focus on the rest.

“This year in July, because these earlier incents are working, we will continue to incent the whole portfolio. Now we will be encouraging disti partners to work with partners to sell into non-named accounts, by giving them an extra incentive to sell into those accounts, and drive more business in that space.”

“We think that these non-named account changes can help us add a lot of value,” said Cheryl Neal, VP-Data, Networking and Security Solutions at Riverbed distributor partner Avnet. “We can help them acquire net-new logos.”

New reseller incents are also being introduced to assist partners in three areas: building an embedded solution and services program, driving joint engagement, and accelerating repeatable revenue in the smaller enterprise and mid-markets.

“Resellers will get incents they didn’t have access to before, including new benefits around embedded solutions, where we had no specific incents before,” Salazar said. “Partners will be able to work more closely with Riverbed in some situations and create embedded solutions with Riverbed. Them embedding our tech into their overall solutions, and us providing incentives to them for that, makes this a win-win for both of us.”

“With the embedded solution and services program, we want to see the creation of well-architected environments, not a selection of one-offs,” Meulema said.

Last, and certainly not least, Riverbed launched pilot programs in Q1 for Managed Services sold through the channel with subscription licensing and pricing, and will begin offering an “as-a-service” subscription model for its products.

“In principle, we are looking at all our products being available on a subscription basis by the end of the year,” Meulema said. “Partners selling as-a-service want to be charged by the month – as they get paid – so we are building out the subscription model to provide flexibility.”

Meulema said this new program isn’t likely to lead to Riverbed chasing after major services providers who have not been Riverbed partners previously.

“We are not on a recruiting exercise here,” he said. “This is more for our existing partners who have been asking for this.”