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SonicWall VARs are calling for newly appointed Vice President of Worldwide Sales Marvin Blough to reenergize the company’s efforts in North America.

Blough served as vice president of sales in Europe, where the company’s channel business achieved record growth, SonicWall officials said, and before that was vice president of North American sales. Former Vice President of Worldwide Sales John DiLullo stepped down Jan. 10 after a two-and-a-half-year stint in the position.

According to Lester Keizer, CEO of Connecting Point, a Las Vegas MSP (managed services provider), relations with SonicWall before DiLullo’s tenure were “pretty rocky for a while,” and SonicWall took a couple of Connecting Point’s customers away by approaching them directly.

“We didn’t have a very good relationship with SonicWall because of the channel conflicts,” Keizer said. “I really hope this new appointment helps them become more channel-sensitive,” he said.

Blough told Channel Insider that over the past 18 months the company experienced some discord and wasn’t as focused as it should have been on the channel and partners’ needs. But Blough said that his intention is to focus on redirecting SonicWall’s channel efforts so it is an easy company to partner with.

Andy Judge, CEO of Grove Networks, expressed ambivalence about the leadership change, but said he hoped that fresh blood would increase product awareness in the channel and increase focus on partner education.

“[DiLullo] was only there for two years and before that I don’t think SonicWall had anybody,” Judge said. “And frankly, even when he was put into that empty position, I didn’t notice a huge difference,” he said, adding that even if SonicWall only made small improvements, it would be better than doing nothing.

Blough said that partner education, training and support were, in fact, areas he planned to focus on. To that end, SonicWall will open what it refers to internally as its ” Partner Center,” a brand-new, state-of-the-art training, support and sales center in Tempe, Ariz. Blough said the new facility would open in mid-February.

“We’re taking our channel sales teams, channel marketing, channel management and support, and combining all the personnel and resources into a new facility,” Blough said. SonicWall is relocating many channel personnel and hiring in the Tempe area to bring all the “channel touchpoints” together in one facility, he said. “This will definitely increase our responsiveness to the channel,” Blough said.

Blough also highlighted SonicWall’s relaunched PartnerLink Web portal, which he said would incorporate Web 2.0 tools and initiatives such as video, chats and interactive forums for partners to communicate. “We are looking for innovative, creative ways to communicate, train and support the channel,” he said, adding that SonicWall’s use of YouTube as a forum for product information and training videos has been enthusiastically welcomed by partners.

Steven Winter, CEO of Ergos Technologies, agreed with Judge that any renewed focus on the company’s “pretty adequate” channel program would be welcomed. “It has some great products, and we’ve never had support or service issues, but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve,” he said.