Software defined networking vendor ADARA Networks has launched one of the first documented SDN channel programs that will educate partners on the basics of the technology so they can sell the product. Selling SDN technology won't be an easy challenge for partners, considering there is so little product on the market, and many customers don't yet understand the new networking strategy.
"ADARA's approach of building a channel for integration partners makes sense, but it does mean that there's going to need to be [a lot] of direct engagement. There will have to be a significant amount of work that ADARA has to do to help integrators build their software products into a finished solution," said Eric Hanselman, research director of networks at 451 Research.
ADARA's SDN technology supports various virtual platforms
ADARA launched its Advantage Partner Program (AAPP) a year ago, but has recently expanded it to focus on its vendor-neutral SDN solution, called the Horizon series. ADARA offers an open platform that works on any existing physical infrastructure and integrates with every virtual platform, from VMware to Oracle VirtualBox to Openstack, company execs said.
"It's not just virtual switches or controllers that work at layer 2 – it's a layer 2-7 controller, a layer 2-7 virtualized stack, virtual switches and routers, global-to-local load balancers, WAN accelerators, protocol and translation devices, file servers, etc. It's everything including client software and the ability to manage not just OpenFlow-enabled hardware like Cisco and Juniper, but everything, whether its OpenFlow-enabled or not," said Eric Johnson, CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based ADARA Networks.
ADARA has developed this technology and SDN platform to be managed in a familiar "drag-and-drop" way. The entire user interface can be managed and configured on a tablet. ADARA technology also lets partners monitor and manage the software networks, which means they can offer remote support services to customers.
The platform, the number, scale and size of clients, as well as the change in the number of resellers that signed up to sell has led to expansion of the channel partner program. "These products are at a level of scale and ease of use that resellers are using, and the type and number of clients have expanded dramatically because of the product availability," Johnson said.
ADARA signs with distributor Tech Data to sell SDN technology through VARs
ADARA has worked in the military sector for a number of years, but about a year ago, the company decided to bring the technology to the commercial sector and signed with distributor Tech Data. Using Tech Data, ADARA created a two-tiered model to sell their services through value-added resellers (VARs), focusing on specific market verticals, from health care to transportation to legal services.
"We realized that software development networking can be a real solution. It had to be something that could scale from small- and medium-sized businesses up to large corporate enterprises and not just be a thing for cloud and service providers. To gain traction, it needs to be for every business across every industry and vertical," Johnson said.
Channel partner program provides training for selling SDN technology
To help make the process of learning SDN technology as painless as possible for partners, ADARA has crafted its training around technology that is familiar to partners to help remove complexity.
"All the interfaces we use look identical to ones partners are familiar with. They are familiar with [functions] like a CLI [command-line interface]. If you remove complexity drivers and make interfaces look familiar, then people don't have to relearn it. The biggest complexity driver is to hide the complexity behind a series of intuitive commands and code. All the managed variables are essentially dynamically computed. What they have to do is define the behaviors and the complexity will be handled," Johnson said.
While ADARA provides pre-sale training for partners, including two tests to become ADARA-certified engineers, there is still on-going education that will be needed in order for partners to successfully sell SDN technology. ADARA's engineers will work with partners to help them through the sales process as customers decide on adopting new architectures and services.
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"We will sit down with the reseller's engineers and take a look at exactly what the customers' orchestration needs to be; what the inventory of apps and services are; what the network topology is; how they want their computation; how they want their virtual machines and networking to operate; and what dynamic policies they want. We will code that into the boxes [that] are preconfigured to their appliances and then basically just drop [the solutions] in. Once the box is in, it will dynamically operate itself," Johnson said.
ADARA and resellers also show customers the benefits by adopting these services and solutions. "We explain to customers that there are capital expenditures and operational efficiencies they are not leveraging. We target those services and figure out what performance and granular control the customer wants," Johnson said.
Once a sale has been made, ADARA offers on-going services at various levels. Tier 1 level provides support services through the partner, the tier 2 level is a combination of partners and ADARA, including configuration help, and the tier 3 level is solely ADARA if there's something that requires an analysis of the software. "We provide architectural design and consulting, not just installation support, but also optimization support," Johnson added.
ADARA hopes partners will use the consulting and advisory services to strengthen the reseller-customer relationship. "The reseller can ask us to be involved with their work with customers. But the reseller will also be able to solve a lot of problems in their environment and deepen the relationship with the end-user customer," Johnson said.
While ADARA's partner program already offers extensive partner training, ADARA recognizes there are still educational challenges to be met. "The biggest challenge for partners is understanding what SDN is about. [We have to educate] the channel that what we give them is a toolset that can solve virtually any customer problem. It increases the rate at which customers will add and refresh their infrastructure, and increase business of channel," Johnson said.
Channel partner program gives partners the SDN edge
NetConnect, a network solutions provider focused on networking, cabling, security, storage and wireless connectivity, has already seen benefits through selling ADARA's SDN technology.
"ADARA provided us with the type of products and solutions that we could bring to clients unlike those from bigger vendors. Since we don't do enough business with the bigger vendors, it's hard for us to work with them as closely as we'd like," said Joseph Ambrosole, president of NetConnect.
NetConnect has been a part of ADARA's channel partner program for just under a year and has seen growth in business and an uptick in customers wanting to know more about SDN technology. "We are into clients we would have never gotten to before and are talking to enterprise clients. It allows us to play in a bigger space," Ambrosole said.
By partnering with ADARA, NetConnect has already conducted 4 or 5 successful deployments where the solutions have been rolled out, installed, tested and are actively working.
"There have been no problems with getting an engineer to come in and find what needs to be tweaked if things aren't working right. The team is strong and you can count on them when needed. ADARA doesn't allow partners to just roll the box out when deploying to customers. They want to make sure it's configured properly and ensure that a client's experience is the best it can be," Ambrosole said.