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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."