Riverbed outlines channel strategy, channel roadmap

Riverbed provided an update to partners on where they are in enhancing their services and partner competencies, and also promised a new partner portal is on the way.

SANTA BARBARA –At their third annual partner summit here, Riverbed announced no new immediate enhancements or other changes to their channel program. They did, however, provide an explanation of how their channel strategy has been evolving, and also provided a roadmap with some changes that will take place later this year.

Over the last year, Riverbed has been pretty explicit about its objective of breaking out beyond WAN optimization, where they are the dominant player, but in a market that they acknowledge is a niche one. The principal target is Cisco, in the broad SD-WAN space, and the messaging to partners is that they need to commit here with Riverbed, even though many of them are also Cisco partners.

“We aren’t a networking company like Cisco, and we aren’t going to compete against them to sell routers and switches,” said Karl Meulema, senior vice president, global channels at Riverbed. “In areas like SD-WAN, however, we have a superior offering to Cisco. Their iWAN is not a very good product. Their Meraki is, but with the acquisition of Xirrus we fixed that problem, with a better product. SD-WAN is where we will take on Cisco.”

Riverbed has been consolidating its partner efforts to give maximum support to its core, higher level partners. This year, about 160 of these were at the partner conference, down marginally from 167 last year. The message to these partners is clear however: they need to work with Riverbed in areas where they compete with Cisco.

“Our partners need to make choices on what they want to be committed to,” Meulema said. “Cisco cannot commit to SD-WAN the same way we can because they have too much to lose from their legacy business if they do. It’s not wise for partners to bank on vendors who have much to lose from change. This is a long-standing issue in the industry. It’s the same reason IBM didn’t want to move from proprietary systems, because they made 80 per cent margin on those systems. It’s easy to read about this, and deal with it at a theoretical level. But now they have to make these choices, given that between 60 and 70 per cent of our partners are also Cisco partners.

“My call to action to our partners was, ‘where do you want to put your money – put it on the past or the future?” Meulema told ChannelBuzz. “We want them to carve out bits and pieces of their businesses where they know Cisco is not the answer, and start there.”

Riverbed articulated a Go-To-Market acceleration strategy at the event, which has three focus areas for the channel.

The Refresh component consists of upgrading the legacy SteelHead install base to SteelHead SD, and expanding opportunity through cross-selling across the portfolio. Riverbed sees the SteelHead refresh as a billion dollar TAM, and the joint SteelCentral-SteelHead opportunity as a $2.6 billion TAM.

The second component, SD-WAN Acceleration, is based on driving aggressive joint Go-to-Market activities with partners who lead with Riverbed in SD-WAN. IDC sees this as a $6 billion opportunity by 2020.

The third channel component revolves around Aternity acceleration. Riverbed is looking to team with top Application Performance Management and Network Performance Management partners looking to expand their opportunity with end-user experience management. They define this as a $2.68 billion TAM in the Americas and EMEA.

Riverbed stressed opportunities in these areas throughout the partner event, emphasizing how the Xirrus acquisition will strengthen SD-WAN, how Aternity has strengthened SteelCentral, how the forthcoming Service Delivery Platform will have strong partner applicability, and how the company’s Riverbed Reach marketing program will help partners take this all to market.

‎Michelle Hodges, Vice President, Global Channel Strategy and Programs at ‎Riverbed

Riverbed has been updating its channel program to better address these strategic goals. ‎Michelle Hodges, Vice President, Global Channel Strategy and Programs at ‎Riverbed, outlined the principles behind Riverbed’s partner program, and where the program is headed, to partners in a keynote.

Predictability is one of those core principles. Riverbed pledges to make program changes only twice a year, with major changes coming in July, and minor ones in January – which also explains the lack of changes announced at the event. Consistency, being value-based, integration and simplicity make up the others.

“We’ve come a long way in two and a half years,” Hodges said. “Last year we spent a lot of time building out the channel teams. This year, the focus is on building out the basis of enablement to create those solutions. You can’t build the program in a vacuum.”

Riverbed began the process of upgrading its partner program last year, and some of its new elements, such as supporting partners building both Embedded and Managed Services, were launched during the last year.

“Many of you, but not all of you, are engaged in our embedded services program,” Hodges told partners. “We would like you all to be. We also want to enable you to shift a percentage of professional services to outcome-based services over the new twelve months. We have to help you accelerate that shift, by driving engagement at the customer level with our field sellers.”

Hodges described the program’s resale discounts as rich, and a good basis from which to begin.

“We are also providing reward for developing embedded solutions, hosting managed services, selling across the portfolio, and registering deals,” she said. She also noted the competency discounts, several of which are still forthcoming, and services.

“The real benefits for you come when the services kick in,” Hodges added. “We have fifteen packaged and consulting services you can resell, either branded by Riverbed or yourselves.”

The competencies and services were presented in a Heatmap slide to partners across three strategic areas: Visibility; Cloud Networking; and Services Management and Orchestration. In a nutshell, services to ‘Land’ customers all exist today, and the ‘Expand’ services will be available, “soon,” Hodges said. Those forthcoming services include EUE Monitoring and Optimization Services, Network and Application Business Impact and Assessment Services, Customer Success Services, Cloud/Network Migration Services, and Resident Consultant Services. A series of services around adoption of maintenance and support, and upgrade services, have been designated as partner-led.

“We have a good competency-based enablement program today, but to build confidence in channel competency, we have to do two things,” Hodges told partners. “We have to help you with cross- portfolio selling and increase confidence in your skills across our platforms.”

To this end, Hodges provided an update on these Competency Enablement initiatives. Riverbed Sales Academy for cross-portfolio sales development will be available May 1. RSS 2.0 sales certifications are scheduled for July 1 availability. RCSA 2.0 pre-sales accreditations are scheduled for August 1. Both of these focus on cross-portfolio selling.

The new certifications, in the Riverbed Certified Performance Engineering (RCPE) program, will be rolled out January 1.

Finally, Hodges promised that a new Partner Center partner portal is on the way.

“Industry-wide, about 90 per cent of partner interaction today is through the partner portal,” she said. “I bet that’s not the average for Riverbed today. We are rolling out a new one.”