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Riverbed Partner Summit unveils major channel program updates

Riverbed Technologies rings in 'Disruption 2.0' at its annual Partner Summit, introducing new channel partner programs, initiatives and other updates.

Today at Riverbed Partner Summit 2016, held April 5 to 7 in Scottsdale, Ariz., the company announced significant changes to the Riverbed Performance Partner Program, most notably around the new Embedded Solutions and Services Program, Joint Engagement Program, and Authorized Consulting Partner Program.

With about 180 partners in attendance, the Riverbed Partner Summit touted the theme of "Disrupt 2.0." The company has been all about change since it went private with the acquisition by equity investment firm Thoma Bravo for $3.6 billion about a year ago. Additionally, in January, Riverbed announced the acquisition of Ocedo, a Germany-based SD-WAN company.

Riverbed has multiple product launches lined up for the year that showcase the integration of Ocedo and Riverbed SD-WAN technology, the first of which is expected at the end of the month. Partners at the Summit learned more about where Riverbed is coming from strategically, where it's headed and where they fit in.

"There's a lot of disruption going on in the marketplace, and we see a decline in product revenue and increase in services revenue as well as a big change in how customers acquire and consume technology, which is an important fact for all of us in the room," said Karl Meulema, senior vice president of global channels at Riverbed.

The latest updates further shifts the partner program away from a resell model toward a services model to address changing customer needs. Riverbed partners primarily consist of managed services providers (MSPs), value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SIs), according to the company.

Embedded Solutions and Services Program

Riverbed designed the Embedded Solutions and Services Program to encourage partners to build out standard offerings around Riverbed technology, versus one-off offerings, "so about 20% of the solution is customizable but 80% is fixed," Meulema said. "The idea for us is to make our technology an integral part of that 80%. … The more we have embedded solutions in our partner world, the more we can help our partners build out solutions and services for their customers."

What's the benefit for partners? With pre-engineered technologies or services, they can achieve lower costs and higher margins. "It also doesn't mean that every partner that sells it has to have deep skills in Riverbed technology, because they sell the outcome of that solution or service, not the technology that sits underneath," he explained.

Joint Engagement Program

Currently in the early stages, the objective of Riverbed's Joint Engagement Program is to unite direct and indirect sales forces early in the sales process, which Meulema believes will be beneficial for everyone.

At the Riverbed Partner Summit in 2015, the company talked about closer direct and indirect sales alignment. The Joint Engagement Program announced today formalizes what was discussed last year.

"This is an experiment for us -- to get the sales forces together to share information -- so we're putting incentives behind it or else it won't get anywhere," he said.

We see a decline in product revenue and increase in services revenue as well as a big change in how customers acquire and consume technology.
Karl Meulemasenior vice president of global channels, Riverbed Technologies

To drive the program, Riverbed is increasing partner margins on deals that result from aligned sales engagements. According to the company's channel chief, about 95% of Riverbed revenue is partner-driven. "However, it's the timing of when the direct sales organization works with channel partners, i.e., before there's even an opportunity on the table or later when it's going to procurement. What I'm trying to do is move that to the earlier phases," Meulema said.

Besides offering increased margins to cooperating partners, the company is putting pressure on its direct sales organization to cooperate. For example, for large customer accounts, Riverbed will add language that specifies which partners are critical in those accounts and a directive to work with those partners.

Riverbed is tracking the Joint Engagement Program's progress quarterly and making necessary adjustments along the way. Only a handful of Riverbed partners are involved in this pilot.

Authorized Consulting Partner Program

The Authorized Consulting Partner Program is for Riverbed partners that want to build out professional services around Riverbed technology but may not have all the knowledge to do so. This program allows partners to use Riverbed's knowledge, including that around professional services and intellectual property (IP), such as tools, methodologies and procedures, in addition to the company's help desk.

Meulema expects existing partners, such as VARs, SIs and distributors that work with partner firms too small to build out their own professional services arm, to be interested in this program. Avnet is currently engaged in the professional services program, while Arrow, Riverbed's other U.S. distributor, is in talks with the company about the program, according to the channel chief.

Redesigned partner portal, other changes

The new programs are open to certified Riverbed partners, i.e., Premier and Elite, with specific partner incentives that will be made available through an overhauled partner portal.

The redesigned portal will make it easier and more transparent for partners to do business with Riverbed. A new "Total Rewards" page shows partners all market development fund (MDF) and rebate information in one place.

According to Meulema, the company is streamlining its incentive program. By July, it will include all partners and eliminate any program inconsistencies. At that point, all partners will be treated the same and receive the same benefits on their partner statuses, he said.

Next Steps

Riverbed adds AWS and Azure support to its hyper-converged SteelFusion technology.

Learn about SD-WAN opportunities for channel partners.

Read about 10 mistake businesses can make when transitioning to MSP or cloud models.

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