The Partner Summit itself, the first since Extreme remodelled its channel organization to work within regional units, got feedback on the changes and the direction of Extreme’s channel strategy.
Earlier this year, following some disappointing earnings results and the departure of CRO and acting channel chief Bob Gault, Extreme Networks remodelled its channel strategy. The company did not appoint a new global channel leader, and instead folded channel management into the regional sales organizations, with the channel directors reporting to the regional sales SVPs rather than a global channel leader, as formerly. When Joe Vitalone joined Extreme in June as the new CRO, he doubled down on this initiative.
“We had started to restructure the company to be closer to the street,” Vitalone told ChannelBuzz. “Rather than have a bifurcated channel organization, we decided to combine to get better teamwork. That has paid off measurably, and after I arrived in June, I accelerated this strategy based on the success of it. We also hired Brenda Richardson as Channel lead for Americas, to join Sean Collins for international. I’m also expanding our Partner Council, to make sure we do things they see as beneficial.”
Vitalone described the partner reaction to this as ‘incredible.’
“Partners feel they are more connected and not in competition with us in any way,” he said. “They now have a lot of mindshare of our sales engineers and all the promotions are pushed back through them. It’s all focused back on the partner, and its about expanding the business of the partners that we have now, instead of bringing on net-new ones we have to train.”
Vitalone also noted that the pandemic encourages a more regional approach to channel management.
“COVID changed everything,” he said. “Partners want more regional interaction because people can’t travel, and they feel that they get that with this structure. This is especially important because we rely a lot on smaller regional partners, around the globe.”
Vitalone stressed that Extreme will continue to have three selling motions, all of which are focused on the channel.
“We want to protect and expand the base of customers from the old to the new generations of product,” he said. “We want to get the channel to expand to new markets. And we want the channel to expand to the cloud, with ExtremeCloud IQ.”
Vitalone said that the priorities for the new fiscal year start with accelerating the move to cloud and Extreme’s MSP presence.
“That has grown better than we expected, as it was accelerated probably 5x by COVID,” he noted. “Some customers didn’t have the money around to spend their way out of the situation, so moving to the cloud and Opex played to our advantage.”
Another priority is adding some bigger global partners.
“We want some larger partners who can represent us well around the world,” Vitalone stated.
That ties in to the broader restructuring company for growth, including bringing in a new CMO.
“We have had many markets where we had less than 1% market share, which shouldn’t be the case for a company of our size,” Vitalone noted.
The transitioning economy and Extreme’s response to it are having good results.
“We had a great Q4,” Vitalone said. “It’s the first time we preannounced earnings positively in 25 years.”
Vitalone expects further momentum from the Extreme Partner Summit, which concluded yesterday.
“Last year we had 175 partner attendees, and this year we had over 2000 in the virtual event,” he said. “There are some drawbacks to virtual customer events, and our preference would be to do them live, but with partners it felt pretty intimate. We had six main keynote speakers as well as specific tracks to educate the channel, and we limited all the speakers to 15 minutes so they didn’t bore the heck out of the partners in the virtual format. We also had Q&A in the whole session, so people felt part of the event. The fact that everyone can attend really extended our reach. People didn’t have to buy a plane ticket or spend two days out of their calendar. At a typical physical event, there would usually be two people from a partner, and we were seeing six or so online, so we could engage more roles within the partner community.”
The big product announcement at the event was the integration of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy Intrusion Prevention capabilities into Extreme’s AirDefense Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS) offering
“The industry has kind of taken WIPS for granted in recent years, as WiFI security has gotten better with WPA3,” said Dave Coleman, Director of Product Marketing at Extreme. “Everyone has one, but many are RF checkboxes.”
The AirDefense solution is a venerable one in the industry, which Coleman said is widely recognized as best of breed.
“It was actually the first WIP solution after WiFI came out,” he said. “Motorola bought AirDefense, and the product moved to Zebra and then from Zebra to us. Originally, it did mainly WiFi security monitoring, to detect where home routers became unauthorized entrants into corporate networks, but the product has evolved over time to include detection and prevention, in many cases, of over 320 security vectors. The main verticals have become big box retail, and health care, but government and anywhere that is concerned about WiFi security is a market.”
The rise of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy [BLE] devices for Internet of Things [IoT] use cases are becoming a new threat to security.
“We are starting to find these devices are the new unsanctioned access points into enterprise networks.” Coleman stated. “We are now the first solution to monitor both WiFi and these other RF technologies.”
Bluetooth and BLE detection lets AirDefense ensure full security visibility of these BLE devices. This includes on-demand BT/BLE device location support, BLE device location change detection, rogue BLE Beacon detection, and unsanctioned BLE device detection.”
“Healthcare will be a huge market for this, because it has so many IoT devices patient monitoring equipment,” Coleman said. “Retail uses a lot of BLE tags for locationing purposes. But there are BLE devices in everything, and current WIF solutions don’t protect them.”
The new Bluetooth protection is also available as a standard feature for ExtremeCloud IQ Pilot subscribers. Last month AirDefense was one of five applications Extreme made available to ExtremeCloud IQ Pilot subscribers at no extra charge.