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Pluto Networks' situation -- a mix of vendor partners addressing different WAN optimization scenarios for customers -- is becoming more typical for channel partners who want to tailor the WAN optimization experience as much as possible depending on customer needs.
"The shift toward cloud is about finding the most efficient models for delivering IT --it's the flexibility and the differentiation of the offerings," said Nik Rouda, director of product marketing at Riverbed. "For us it's not just WAN optimization anymore, and our VAR partners are really enjoying the momentum we have."
Riverbed is the best option for partners, Rouda argued, because it has the widest WAN optimization purview, and in the past year, the company has made a number of moves to extend its WAN optimization market lead.
Last November, for example, it launched a cloud-ready version of its popular Steelhead WAN optimization appliances, and also entered the cloud storage market with a product called Whitewater -- two products that Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly described at the time as "the nirvana of data processing."
Last month, Riverbed made two aggressive acquisitions: Zeus Technology, a virtual application delivery controller specialist, and Aptimize, a Web content optimization vendor. Earlier this year, Riverbed also confirmed a partnership with Akamai to deliver cloud-based applications more effectively over hybrid cloud networks.
Rouda said Riverbed recognizes that the WAN optimization market has plenty of newcomers. But none, not even networking heavyweights like Cisco, can offer the breadth of on-premise hardware appliances, virtualization- and cloud-ready WAN op, and adjacent technologies that Riverbed can now, he argued.
"Riverbed can do all of these areas better than everyone, which is why partners keep coming after us," Rouda said. "They love that they can pick the technology that fits all of their different requirements."
Riverbed's competitors, of course, don't see the company's dominance in such certain terms.
Certeon's aCelera line is a strong alternative to established WAN optimization players like Riverbed, Cisco and Blue Coat Systems because it's a flexible, virtualization-ready solution that's already significantly cheaper than those vendors' products, said Karl Soderlund, Certeon's senior vice president, worldwide sales and business development.
Soderlund, who came to Certeon in 2010 following two years as vice president and general manager for sales and marketing at HP ProCurve, is also hoping to hit partners in the place they care about most: their profit margins.
In May, Certeon rolled out a new channel program through which there is no longer a standard discount on partner sales of aCelera, but when qualified partners register aCelera deals through Certeon's partner portal, that partner is guaranteed at least a 20 percent margin, as well as the opportunity to work with Certeon using a web-based margin calculator to understand how the final discounts will be awarded. Certeon is guaranteeing at least the 20 percent, and will also provide VARs 10 percent if a VAR registers a Certeon deal but ends up losing that deal to another Certeon partner.
Deal protection and margin pressure are the biggest complaints he hears from partners, Soderlund told CRN at the time.
"Traditionally, you can go out there and promise high margins, but due to competitive pressures … they're dragged down into single digits," Soderlund said. "Most resellers would say you can't run a healthy business on single-digit margins."
Jeff Facer, CEO of Area-Wide Technologies, a Champaign, Ill.-based solution provider, said his company came to Certeon based on how the aCelera platform fit in with Dell-owned EqualLogic storage. Specifically, Area-Wide uses Certeon's aCelera to optimize SAN replication and disaster recovery with EqualLogic SAN.
"I've never had a vendor in all my years doing this that will pay you a margin if you brought the person to the dance but the person didn't end up dancing with you," Facer said. "That is an extremely unique program that no vendor in any IT market we work in offers. So far, they've sot behind everything they said they're going to do."
Many of Facer's clients are banks or other distributed businesses that have several branches but aren't looking to invest in pricey distributed infrastructure and can't afford more bandwidth and business connectivity than they already have.
"It's turned these slow WAN links to a point where we can do almost anything we want," Facer said. "And we can tell them they don't have to buy five more T1 lines but we can do centralized e-mail storage and business continuity."