SonicWall`s Cisco Partner Poaching Plans

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

The company introduces a new channel chief and program enhancements designed to pick up partners among Cisco and midmarket resellers.

SonicWall has established a Partner Excellence Center and plans to roll out a deal registration program later in 2008. The company's channel chief calls both moves part of an effort to go after Cisco resellers.

"Over the past two years there was a lot more concentration on the expansion of the company though acquisitions," such as Aventail, said Marvin Blough, vice president of global channels at SonicWall. "We've really expanded the portfolio and expanded the product opportunity for partners," Blough said. "Now 2008 is the year we come back to, 'Now do we have right programs in place to support partners?'"

That focus may have been renewed just in time. Some SonicWall partners recently told The Channel Insider that the company has fallen out of favor with VARs, but could regain trust with the Blough's appointment.

The Aventail acquisition offered SonicWall a foray into the midmarket, a space dominated by networking giant Cisco Systems, while Aventail, which had been served mostly by a direct sales force, gained a channel operation with 5,000 existing resellers.

Over the months since the acquisition in June 2007, SonicWall has recruited 20 to 25 VAR partners serving the midmarket space to help sell the Aventail line. Now, Blough said, about 80 percent of Aventail sales are through the channel, and SonicWall is looking for more partners to help raise that percentage even higher.

"We are probably looking for 50 to 100 strong midmarket partners," Blough said. "We want to make sure we support them right, and that they are not competing with each other for SonicWall business."

But that doesn't mean the company is turning its back on small and midsize business resellers, he cautioned.
"We are absolutely committed to the SMB space," Blough said. "But as we grow as a company we are going into larger customers. We are headed into a place that has been dominated by Cisco."

Blough said many of the Cisco resellers he speaks with are looking for alternatives, and SonicWall offers a high-value alternative from the partner perspective with higher margins tied into products sales and not just services.

All the company's partners can look forward to the changes and investments in store for SonicWall's channel operations in 2008, including:

  • The Partner Excellence Center in Tempe, Ariz., which will be close to the company's support organization in Phoenix. The center will also house the company's channel marketing support and serve as a training center for channel partners. "This will become the location for in-depth partner training," Blough said. "We will be bringing partners in here on a monthly basis to get to know sales people and technical support people."
  • Deal registration. Blough said SonicWall is evaluating various deal registration programs in the industry. "Some are good but there are others that are very bad," he said. "We are trying to take a look at it and how we can do it the right way." SonicWall's program is likely to include some type of certification and education programs.
  • New channel pricing programs, designed to reward higher levels of education and partners that make a bigger commitment to SonicWall.
  • "Sheltering" of midmarket products, meaning only making certain products available to those who have been certified on them.
  • A renewal system that rewards partners regardless of whether SonicWall or the partner makes the renewal sale. "When we renew it we still pay a commission to the channel partner who originally sold the appliance," Blough said. "About 20 percent of our partners are already participating in this."
Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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