Independent SonicWall ramps up service improvements, partner skillsets

SonicWall CEO Bill Conner discusses the company’s improved metrics since independence from Dell, including some significant ones on the channel front.

SonicWall CEO Bill Conner

It has been a little less than eight months since SonicWall was purchased by Francisco Partners and Elliott Management and spun off from Dell last November 1. The company now reports that it has surpassed all of its objectives for the period in key metrics like the volume of products sold and the strength of the sales pipeline. They have also exceeded expectations regarding their channel performance, including deal registration and training, and have continued to sign more partners that work in higher parts of the market than SonicWall’s traditional base.

“We have exceeded all our operational targets,” said Bill Conner, Sonicwall’s CEO. “I couldn’t be happier for the team.”

A key metric here is growth in the number of registered SonicWall partners in their SecureFirst partner program.

“Since Day One, we’ve had a lot of momentum here,” Conner said. “The last time we publicly talked about SecureFirst, we had 10,000 partners. Now we have 15,000, with 4000 of them being new to SonicWall.”

Conner also indicated that, as a group, the new partners have a somewhat different profile than the legacy ones.

“It’s definitely a more hybrid partner base,” he said. “MSPs are a much bigger player today, both small and big ones. They are not new as partners, but are now a major growth vector. We have had a lot of momentum in the last 12 months with the new SonicWall around partner recruitment. We now have a new distribution engine we didn’t have under Dell. The distis are doing their job, recruiting high-skilled partners for us. We now have more larger resellers. It helps as well that a lot of our products go a lot higher in the market than they used to.”

Conner indicated that partners can expect to see some interesting items coming up on the product front.

“We’ve got a lot on the roadmap coming up in the next 90 days or so,” he said.

One of the significant barometers in the growth of the scale of partners is found in SonicWall’s deal registration data.

“On deal registration, we have gone from $50,000 to $75,000 per registered deal,” Conner said. “Our number of registered deals was initially close to a 60 per cent increase, and now it’s still over 50 per cent. The result is that we have over $250 million of new pipeline.”

At the end of March, SonicWall launched SonicWall University, with a real-time digital and role-based curriculum driven by intelligence gathered from SonicWall’s Capture Labs and threat researchers.  Conner said that this has been a spectacular success.

“SonicWall University has been a big enabler for the channel,” Conner said. “It provides role-based learning around sales, presales and post sales. Because it is based on real time intelligence, it lets us train not just about existing threats, but new ones as well, around ransomware , encrypted communications, email and others.”

In less than three months, partners have received over 10,000 hours of training, and successfully completed 19,000 exams.

“That’s a massive learning curve, and represents an incredible amount of work invested in success,” Conner said.

Conner said this training is critical in helping SonicWall partners ward off attacks like WannaCry and Petya.

“This Petya is a new version of an older malware cocktail,” he said. “What it did was use the same type of exploit as WannaCry, and combine it with a bank trojan to steal credentials. We’ve been using deep learning algorithms to spot these attack vectors, even though they are spiking these cocktails in real time.

“This was one of the reasons we came up with Capture,” Conner added. “Even if a next-gen firewall is 99.9 per cent secure, there are still Zero Day things it may not detect. Capture’s engines look at things in parallel, and will do multiple threat analysis three different ways against unknown items and block them until cleared. That was very successful against WannaCry.”

Finally, Conner noted that SonicWall had significantly enhanced its own customer service.

“Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced the average queue time by 80 per cent, and shortened the longest queue wait time by 60 per cent,” he said. “We can’t declare victory, but it is a dramatic improvement.”