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Riverbed partners to see tighter sales alignment, enablement

Riverbed's channel boss told solution providers attending the company's first Riverbed partner summit to expect greater sales alignment and enablement.

Yesterday at the Riverbed Impact Conference, company channel chief Karl Meulema briefed about 160 Riverbed partners on what's ahead for them now that the application performance vendor has reset its course as a private company.

The vendor's first partner summit comes less than a month after Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm, and Teachers' Private Capital closed their acquisition of Riverbed Technology Inc.

Riverbed's restructuring, in addition to its $3.6 billion acquisition announced in December 2014, includes the sale of two product lines, SteelStore and SteelApp, that Meulema stated were a distraction from the company's strategic focus on application performance. Looking forward, Riverbed plans on creating tighter alignment between its sales teams and committed partners to move more of its product portfolio to Fortune 3000 midmarket and enterprise customers. Meulema, the channel chief, who's been in that role since October 2014, also noted some changes to Riverbed's specializations and has plans to augment partner enablement resources.

The acquisition and repositioning of Riverbed was inevitable, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. "It had to happen if Riverbed was to transition away from being a WAN optimization vendor and toward being an application performance vendor," he said.

As a private company, Riverbed gained the latitude to be more nimble and energize its partners without having to answer to Wall Street, Kerravala added.

Ninety-five percent of Riverbed's revenue goes through the channel, according to the vendor. However, most of Riverbed's partners today are product resellers. "Our goal is to evolve toward different partner models -- embedded, and joint engagement," said Meulema.

Riverbed is taking a number of steps to move the company's active partners -- between 200 and 400 out of a total number of 3,000 partners worldwide -- from resellers of product to providers of the Riverbed application performance portfolio.

Several months ago, the vendor started a segmentation exercise within its direct sales force to focus reps on fewer accounts that they'll work jointly with partners. "We want to see our revenue shift from pure fulfillment with the channel to joint engagement," said Meulema.

Riverbed's plan is to gain more market share in existing accounts as well as attract new customers in the Fortune 3000; the top enterprise and midmarket enterprise accounts.

This year, the vendor worked on segmenting its channel partners based on where they operate and their market segment focus to identify those partners most capable of having a strategic impact on top accounts, via joint engagement. Riverbed is also turning to its distribution partners to play a greater value-added role in building a sustainable partner channel in midmarket accounts, according to Meulema.

As Meulema gained a foothold in his role as Riverbed's channel chief, he held the company to five guiding principles: consistency, predictability, value-based programs, one program across products and services, and simplicity.

To help Riverbed's most committed partners evolve their businesses toward various models, i.e. services, cloud, managed services, professional services and cloud services, the company has plans roll out more enablement initiatives, particularly around professional services and cloud support.

"Our goal is for our partners to build out their own professional services model around Riverbed technology," Meulema said, adding that Riverbed's professional services organization is not there to drive business. Instead, it exists to drive new technologies and to support and enable partners.

We want to see our revenue shift from pure fulfillment with the channel to joint engagement.
Karl Meulemasenior vice president, global channels, Riverbed Technology

In about six months, Riverbed partners can expect to see the company introduce enablement programs around professional services, such as shadowing where partners and Riverbed's professional services organization work together toward the goal of creating independent partners who will eventually go off on their own, as well as training. At present, all Meulema had to say about cloud enablement was that the company is working on cloud support initiatives.

Changes in Riverbed's specializations are geared towards getting partners to sell the vendor's portfolio of solutions. Premier partners will be required to carry two specializations as of January 1, 2016. The company is also splitting its Performance Management specialization into two separate entities -- Network Performance Management and Application Performance Management.

Kerravala believes there's a big opportunity for partners around SteelCentral, Riverbed's network management software. "There's significant upheaval in the network management industry and users are dissatisfied with their traditional network tools," he said.

The industry analyst based his comments on an annual survey of network managers conducted by his firm. According to the results, 8% to 10% of network managers said they'd change vendors in the networking space, i.e., routing and switching, while 38% would change network management vendors.

"Most of today's network management tools -- OpenView, Tivoli, CA -- were created for an on premises data center and static environment, not for an era when everything is virtual, mobile or cloud," Kerravala said.

Riverbed, he added, has unique network and application performance management offerings, as well as other software that, if partners haven't already taken advantage of it, they should.

Additionally, the company's Demo Program was changed to make it more attractive and less expensive to partners. Demo software will be free and partners will get an 80% discount on hardware. Previously, Riverbed partners received a 60% discount on hardware and software.

Riverbed also announced that all marketing materials are available through its partner portal, which is in the process of being refreshed. Likewise, the partner locator, found on the Riverbed website, is being revamped to make it easier to identify partners by location and specialty.

Next Steps

Get the low down on Riverbed's SteelCentral portfolio.

Learn about Riverbed's upgraded remote office consolidation appliance.

Read about Riverbed's appliance for hybrid cloud environments.

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