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SonicWall partner strategy: Respect the past, but don't be burdened by it

SonicWall reflects on the benefits of spinning out of Dell and how it's reengineering its channel focus and product roadmap to match the speed of the security market.

A familiar yet brand-new vendor has entered the network security market this month.

SonicWall, which previously operated as a subsidiary of Dell, made its debut as an independent company under new ownership on Nov. 1. Now under private equity firm Francisco Partners and Elliot Management Corp., the company will return to its roots as a channel-driven vendor but with a ramped-up focus on equipping partners for emerging security threats. One of SonicWall's first moves as an independent company was to launch a post-Dell SonicWall partner program, SecureFirst, signaling it will deal exclusively with the channel as its way to market.

According to Bill Conner, president and CEO of SonicWall, the company will pursue the product innovation and speed to market that it had formerly been known for in the industry. He said SonicWall's technology roadmap will zero in on a number of areas: firewall features and functions; cloud capabilities for its Global Management System tool as well as refreshed UI and UX; its next generation of hardware technology and operating systems; and new capabilities around mobile networks within the enterprise and businesses. He added that SonicWall will also focus on IoT security.

How has SonicWall benefited from becoming an independent company?

Conner: There are three things. One is SonicWall has always had an unbelievable brand with its channel and consumers. ... Dell is a very strong master-brand company. So SonicWall became an ingredient brand there, which in the small and medium business [segment] that's channel-driven is not necessarily a good thing. So by becoming standalone, one of the remarkable [things] out of this is how strong that brand was in perseverance with the channels and the customers. ... It's almost a marketing miracle that you go from being so 'ingredient' to so strong in terms of [the enthusiasm] of wanting it back.

Bill ConnerBill Conner

The second piece [is the pace] this industry operates at. By being standalone, all we do now is do 24x7 focus on our segments and the attack vectors that we are serving. We're not distracted with other integrations that may or may not be germane to the markets we serve and the speed with which we need to react.

And last but not least, the service is always important and increasingly becoming more valuable as a differentiator to the markets you serve. So having a service organization that is only focused on our product's software and delivery is a huge advantage in terms of focus and cost optimization.

Patrick SweeneyPatrick Sweeney

Patrick Sweeney, vice president of marketing and product management: When you think about some of the advantages that we have being an independent company, it's not that being a large-format company is necessarily negative; but in our particular case, security is such a specific area that you really need to make sure ... communications are not washed out as you're communicating what is happening in the security industry. You want to be very specific to the security-related VARs [value-added resellers]. The VARs want to make sure that your brand is very specific in being out there in the marketplace so that their customers understand what you can do for them.

I think the nimbleness of our being able to make decisions as we see fit and very, very quickly is also going to be a tremendous benefit. You can see in the marketplace that security moves pretty darn fast, and we're going to be able to move just as fast with it.

Steve PatakySteve Pataky

Steve Pataky, vice president of worldwide sales: One of the things that this opportunity ... does afford us is the chance to stand up an independent partner program. ... In this case, it means we now have a program that is 100% SonicWall. We're not a little piece of a much bigger partner program or entity. ... It's 100% security. We're 100% channel. So that flexibility that that affords us to work with partners and the way they want to work with us to optimize all of our program elements -- whether that's profitability elements, reward elements, sales and technical enablement for our channels -- it all gets to be oriented toward security, security expertise, thought leadership around security, and SonicWall and our solutions.

What went into the design of the SonicWall partner program?

Pataky: We wanted to make sure [the SecureFirst Partner Program] was really optimized for security. We wanted to ensure that all the elements were helping our partners understand the threat landscape. ... So first and foremost, now we get to have that dialogue exclusively with our partners and help them develop a point of view, help them develop expertise -- not just around SonicWall but really understanding that threat landscape so they  can go add more value to their customers.

We also had a design principle that was 'Respect the past, but don't be burdened by it.'  And what I mean by that is we're in a really unique position here where we have a very large worldwide channel yet we're standing up a new partner program. You don't see that a lot in our industry. ... We wanted to take the best of [the Medallion SonicWall partner program and Dell PartnerDirect Program] but then create something that was uniquely SonicWall and contemporary for this stage of the company, where we are and what we're doing now.

By being standalone, all we do now is do 24x7 focus on our segments and the attack vectors that we are serving.
Bill Connerpresident and CEO, SonicWall

We also wanted to ensure partner profitability. You'll see that a big part of the new program is 'reward for value,' which is where we literally have partners generate incremental profitability for adding more and more value to selling and supporting the solutions. So things like, obviously, deal registration, which is fairly conventional, but then some additional stackable discounts for a proof of concept with our technology, selling multiple pieces of our platform ... and then traditional back-end incentives that are based on hitting growth targets and other things like that. We tried to optimize each of those for our partners and for the level of commitment and investment that they want to make with SonicWall.

Conner also noted that SonicWall will retain Dell EMC as a partner and remain an "ingredient technology" in many of Dell EMC's enterprise networking products.

Next Steps

Dell EMC outlined its future partner program at Dell EMC World 2016

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