SD-WAN vendor Versa Networks looks to scale up partner base with new ACE Partner Program

Versa is coming off a strong year, and looking ahead to a stronger one next year, so they have implemented a partner program designed to properly train a much increased number of channel partners.

Mike Wood, Versa’s CMO

Today, San Jose-based SD-WAN vendor Versa Networks is launching their first formal partner program, termed  the Versa ACE, for Accelerate, Captivate, Engage. The new program is timed to take advantage of Versa’s strong momentum in the market and is intended to take the partner base from hundreds to thousands of partners. Versa has put a strong focus on training in the program, with the idea being to help partners differentiate not just from the competition, but from other Versa partners.

Versa is coming off a record year in 2020 which saw ,sales of their products, Versa SASE [Secure Access Service Edge], Versa Titan, and Versa Secure SD-WAN nearly double. The company also increased their workforce by 25%, doubled registered channel partners around the world, increased their workforce by 25 percent and added key strategic partners like Deutsche Telekom, McAfee, OmniClouds, MCM Telecom, and Sprint Networks. They are now partnered with 150 Service Providers, including seven of the world’s top 10.

“Last year, we saw just tremendous growth in the business,” said Mike Wood, Versa’s CMO. “One key factor in this has been scaling to keep up with global demand. 2021 is going to be the year of SASE. We have spent the last eight years delivering secure SD-WAN, but now with shift towards the cloud, it’s the perfect environment for partners to come in and help implement services for Work From Anywhere, digital transformation or multi-cloud. It’s the perfect storm where all these come together. As a result, we will be record setting in terms of the number of partners we onboard this year. We have to be consistent to do that.”

“The big customer challenges today are around digital transformation and excessive complexity, and enterprises being faced with multiple architectural approaches to SD WAN,” said Mike Wood, Versa’s CMO. “They want to increase market share and gain competitive advantage, and want partners to assist delivering those things.”

The formalization of the partner program is designed to assist partners to do just that.

John Atchison, Versa’s Head of Global Partner Marketing

“Versa had an ad hoc program before, and the issue was how do we continue to invest in channels globally and get them to find new opportunities,” Atchison said. “I’ve designed this program, the fourth one which I’ve created, to do this. It addresses the needs of partners around three things: enablement, specifically training; Go-to-Market, helping them drive demand; and helping them to differentiate themselves in the market.”

The existing partner base is a mix of business models.

“We have a tremendous number of cybersecurity-oriented VARs, who lead with security challenges, and the remainder are networking SIs and VARs,” Wood said.  “We also have 150 telco partners like Comcast. We are seeing a convergence where the expectation is that networking, security and analytics are all going to be converged. So you have security partners developing a networking practice out of necessity, as well as the reverse.”

The objective is to use the program to scale up that partner base significantly.

“We have hundreds of partners today,” Wood said. “The plan is for this to scale up to thousands of partners.”

The program’s enablement focus ties training and certifications to program status.

“It’s focused on the creation of specialties – not the old Silver Gold Platinum approach,” Atchison said. “It’s a specialty-based model with rewards for competency. We have a learning platform, with a very prescriptive curriculum around Sales, Pre-Sales and Technical training. Partners need to complete a number of courses and take the exam. Then they become certified and that counts as a program requirement.” Specialties are available in Secure SD-WAN, SASE, and Titan, Versa’s three solution areas, and their achievement opens up specific financial, sales and marketing benefits.

The Versa ACE Partner Program provides partners with a 30-60-90-day slate of activities which helps them onboard, ramp-up quickly, and successfully start generating pipeline.

“When a partner signs with us, they immediately get trained on marketing, deploying the solution, and supporting the solution,” Wood said.

“The 30-60-90 day plan is a critical component of the program,” Atchison stated. “We have activities to help partners ramp to revenue, which are very prescriptive, from registering in the portal through to starting, tuning and fostering relationships in the company. That has all been implemented on the back end.” There is a single sign-on to our Global Learning portal as well. That platform, Versa Academy, has delivered over 26,000 hours of instructor-led training since launching in the first half of 2020, with 800 engineers trained globally, and over 100 Specialist certifications issued in the last 90 days.

Teaching partners to differentiate their unique skillsets in selling Versa from each other is also a major focus.

“We have a best-of-breed solution, but when we have thousands of partners selling the same solution, they compete with each other,” Wood said. “Part of the onboarding is working with partners on what their differentiation is as well as Versa’s. That’s a very important part of this new program. SIs, VARs and MSPs don’t always realize how their and our differentiation can be articulated to the market to differentiate against other partners.”