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In August, Bob Bruce departed as Aruba's channel chief and was succeeded by Jim Harold as vice president of channel sales.
Partners agreed that Bruce, who became Aruba's channel chief in December 2009 after a three-decade channel career spent in bigger roles at Cisco, Juniper and 3Com, brought a lot of added visibility to Aruba's channel even if he didn't always seem to have the buy-in from Aruba's executive team.
Several pointed to a seminal fall 2010 update of Aruba's then-three-year-old PartnerEdge program that boosted deal registration and provided better rewards for higher-tiered Aruba partners. Bruce left the Aruba channel in better shape than he found it, they said, and now Harold, also a practiced channel hand with experience leading channel organizations at Enterasys, NetApp and Blue Coat Systems among others, has hit the ground running.
During the Aruba partner advisory council meeting, Harold told partners that Aruba had further changed a lot of its sales rep compensation to encourage not only partnering, but also deeper solution provider involvement at all ends of the Aruba deal-making spectrum.
"In the past it had really been more of a position of theirs to take deals direct, and if the channel had a hand in something at the end, great," Accuvant's Welsh said. "That culture has changed. The compensation promotes services, as well as shows Aruba willing to pay their reps more for taking deals with partners and shifting away from smaller transactions. They want to push more of the midmarket to resellers and they're also saying they're going to take some commission away from reps if they deal directly. They want their reps focused more upstream and want to let the partners do their part is what I'm hearing."
At the same time, Aruba is directing more channel resources to services-centric deals and awarding more points of margin to managed services-focused partners that can build infrastructure and package solutions with wireless LAN, security and MDM in mind.
"We look at Aruba as a top strategic partner," said James Marsh, senior vice president at Carousel Industries, an Exeter, R.I.-based solution provider. "That's a bright future over there. What we hear is that they're trying to come up with programs that will benefit larger partners and support folks better in bigger deals, so we're encouraged by that."
Added Welsh: "Jim's been doing this a long time. He gets the game, and he knows what motivates and demotivates partners. I think he's got the ear of Lou Serlenga [Aruba vice president, North America sales], and that they are looking at this as a team trying to double business, not just grow it by 10 [percent] or 15 percent."
Aruba's Harold said the big difference between Aruba's program and other wireless programs -- especially those from smaller competitors -- is that Aruba is pushing partners to build a professional services consultancy on top of BYOD integration, which is itself built upon the resale of wireless and security products.
"The professional services potential here is huge," Harold told CRN. "We're big on that as the growth engine of new opportunities and also of profit. Partners are taking BYOD and these other challenges and responding to them as practice areas. That's really taken off for Aruba in a short period."
"It's a special breed of partner: one that has to contend with a much broader, bigger, denser environment to deploy wireless effectively," Aruba's Gibson said. "And if wireless is first, security is second. It's not so much about just guarding what comes into the network. It's bi-directional now, and it's having a contextual way of having visibility and control and freedom. Partners can't just sell the point product anymore. This is a much more connect-the-dots kind of consultancy and we've seen partners build whole practices around BYOD."
NEXT: Aruba Measures Up In Tech