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Ruckus Wireless on Wednesday plans to announce major changes to its channel partner program in a bid to reward and nurture its most strategic VARs as it moves upmarket toward wireless enterprise deployments.
It's a continuing push for the vendor, which, thanks to aggressive channel recruitment that began two years ago, now enjoys a partner community of about 1,200 VARs worldwide, but is still principally known for the SMB sweet spot that helped make its name.
That all changed earlier this year when Ruckus updated its ZoneFlex Enterprise Smart Wireless LAN product lines to appeal to enterprise-level customers at reasonable prices. The next step, said Ruckus' top brass, is to convince some of the country's top regional VARs to come aboard -- and that their days of being tied to traditional wireless networking vendors are over.
"Loyalty to big brand has gone straight out the window," said David Callisch, vice president of marketing for Ruckus. "People want value for their money, and that's opened doors for Ruckus at the higher end of the market."
Ruckus, which has 143 employees and did $32.9 million in revenue in 2008, expects its wireless LAN revenue to triple this year. According to Callisch, Ruckus has reached a critical mass where its ZoneFlex wireless product line has significant value proposition for larger enterprises but many VARs still sell Ruckus with "the SMB message stuck in their head."
The new program, which Ruckus will unveil to partners at the vendor's Big Dogs partner conference in San Francisco Wednesday, will establish an elite partner level, Top Dogs, through which Ruckus hopes to generate at least 75 percent of its overall enterprise revenue in 2010 and beyond and cement Ruckus' status as a player in the value-added channel.
"We don't do direct sales to enterprise accounts like Meru and Aruba," Callisch said. "We want the middle tier, too."
The new classifications of Ruckus' Big Dogs channel program are Top Dog, Super Dog and Big Dog.
Big Dogs are the basic partner level, for which Ruckus offers a discount through distribution partners Synnex and ScanSource. Big Dogs also have access to the Big Dogs partner portal and Ruckus NFR kits.
One level up is Super Dog, which gives a 5 percent discount beyond the established discount and access to deal registration for an additional 10 percent discount. It provides limited market development funds (MDF) with Ruckus approval, access to the Big Dogs partner portal and a preferred invite to the Big Dog conference. To qualify for Super Dog, VARs must have a minimum of one trained WiSE Guy -- a certified solutions engineer trained in Ruckus Wi-Fi products -- and must purchase Ruckus' NFR kit.
"It's very important that deal registration is rich. It can't just be a couple of margin points here and there," said Ron Gill, Ruckus director of enterprise network sales, North America. "VARs need to be fed. A couple of points doesn't get it done in terms of separation between top-tier partners and lower-tier partners. We have to help VARs build confidence in our organization, and we need to give the best some separation from the guys who are just snipping deals."
Finally, the elite Top Dog class adds a 10 percent discount onto the established discount and deal registration access. Top Dogs receive dedicated MDF as well as a lead generation and a spiff program, and have the option to become Ruckus Big Dog trainers, plus receive invites for themselves and customers to Ruckus' conferences.
The Top Dog requirements are intensive: Top Dogs must have a "Ruckus Champion" -- at least one person in the organization who serves as an evangelist for Ruckus products -- have at least three trained WiSE guys and must hit $100,000 per quarter within 12 months or do $400,000 in annual sales of Ruckus gear. At the Top Dog level, Ruckus collaborates with partners on business plans and custom marketing activities.
Callisch and Gill further describe ideal Top Dog VARs as being networking-centric with staffs of 30 or more people and annual revenue of $25 million-plus, with multiple field offices and strong knowledge of Wi-Fi and value-added services, with some level of vertical focus.
Next: Partners Like The Wag Of Top Dog