Extreme Networks to drive MSP business with Aerohive technology

Extreme channel chief Gordon Mackintosh discusses Extreme’s channel initiatives around the integration, including new programmatic announcements.

Gordon Mackintosh, Extreme Networks’ vice president of worldwide channels

Extreme Networks formally closed its acquisition of Aerohive three weeks ago, and the company is framing multiple new channel initiatives around the acquired technology and partners who sell it.

“We continue to be focused as a company from the data centre to the Wi-Fi edge,” said Gordon Mackintosh, Extreme Networks’ vice president of worldwide channels. “We will take full advantage of this technology that we just acquired, and help partners get into new markets and become more of an MSP than in the past.”

Out of the gate, the company made it clear that its plan was to move its own wireless technology into the Aerohive cloud.

“The direction we are going in is to build more of our technology to work with the Aerohive cloud, and provide the option of selling a cloud managed solution or an on-prem managed solution,” Mackintosh said “We initially will continue with everything as is, and over time we will look to integrate.”

Mackintosh said that the Aerohive technology is simply better for cloud Wi-Fi, particularly for managed services.

“The Aerohive HiveManager technology gives partners great visibility into what’s going on in that network, using analytics and Big Data to optimize networks,” he noted. “Managed services is the way that we can bring scale to that, and that will be a focus going forward. Nearly all legacy Aerohive partners are playing in managed services.”

Mackintosh said to look for an Extreme Networks MSP initiative to be launched in late October.

“Previously, our Extreme partners were running managed services using our software, our XMC technology which allowed them to manage the network through a single pane of glass,” he indicated. “Aerohive is much more SKUable. It’s multi-tenanted. XMC is great for larger installations, but the Aerohive platform will be much stronger in K-12, retail and SMB. It will open up some new markets for us.”

Mackintosh said that currently, about half of their legacy Extreme partner business is working with Aerohive already.

“We estimate that there’s above a 50 per cent overlap in terms of revenue,” he said. “Those partners are super-excited. Their lives just got a lot easier. There are still additional partners we haven’t sold to, and this will create a one vendor, one-stop shop for them.”

It also means, however, that that significant numbers of legacy Extreme partners have been using a different vendor for Wi-Fi. Mackintosh thinks they will be impressed with the Aerohive technology, however.

“We know that many partners will already have a cloud WiFi solution, but the Aerohive HiveManager is extremely intuitive and easy to use,” he said. “It’s very focused on awareness and quick enablement. It’s not like a tool for building a data centre practice. It’s much more turnkey solution. I’ve used it myself and we have field people on it. In the channel, things always take more time than you expect. We do have to be patient. But the technology is brilliant. It’s a third-generation cloud platform that is highly available. It’s agile IT that gets updated every week. It fills a gap for us. It’s not difficult for partners to get onboard and get enabled.”

The plan is to move comparatively quickly by industry standards in integrating the two partner programs.

“We have a strong track record of successfully unifying former Wing partners, and from Brocade and Avaya,” Mackintosh said. “They were similar. We are moving to create a unified partner program at the end of October in the Americas, which will come into effect in January of next year.”

Mackintosh said the enablement activities around the integration are extensive.

“We have identified a set of partners committed to taking the whole portfolio on, partners from both the legacy Extreme and Aerohive sides, and we will be investing in partners who build a practice around this,” he indicated. “That will be what generates the positive results. To get that, we will get real focused with between a couple hundred and 400 partners, and we are actually increasing our partner account manager team by about 50 per cent for this. We are also building a new inside partner account manager team that will skew across thousands of partners working in collaboration with distribution.”

New tools and programs are also part of the enablement process.

“We are making new investments in channel sales services,” Mackintosh said. “We are about to launch a new quick quote tool in a couple of weeks, which will let partners take a configuration that they built online, import it into a partner portal and get a live quote back from that. We have invested heavily in multilingual online training so they can come up to speed quickly. We have also added additional training on the sales side, and we are in the process of integrating all the Aerohive training as well.”

Late last year, Extreme completely revamped their online training curriculum with the new Extreme Dojo modular training program.

“We recently added two new Dojo belts – a Purple and a Black belt – and we have seen good uptake in those belts as well,” Mackintosh indicated. “We also have made some improvements to our MDF platform to make it easier for partners to use, including adding a free concierge to get advice about best campaigns they can average and new services they can leverage. They will be able to do much richer campaigns than before.”

Mackintosh discussed one of the new initiatives in more detail.

We are also piloting a fun generation enablement activity, the ExGames, where three or four partners join a virtual environment and compete with each other,” he said. “They get training and access to a tool that records conversations around top tracks they have had with customers. We believe that this is unique in the industry. It combines Big Data and gamification with good old-fashioned enablement to build pipeline. We will invest more in that in the future.”