Avaya's Former Channel Chief Lands At Aruba Networks


Former Avaya U.S. channel chief Karl Soderlund has landed at Aruba Networks.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba said Tuesday that Soderlund has joined the company as its first vice president of worldwide channels. Soderlund is reporting into Aruba's vice president of worldwide sales, John DiLullo, who in November also joined Aruba from Avaya.

Soderlund, whose last day at Avaya was March 7, said he had a "very quick courtship" with Aruba after DiLullo joined and is excited to help drive what he called a "major shift" in Aruba's channel strategy and mind-set.

[Related: Aruba Boosts Partners' Managed Services Play With Cloud Wi-Fi Platform]

"[Aruba] is at a stage right now, being close to an $800 million company, where there's just a tremendous opportunity to leverage its partner community to drive even more growth," Soderlund told CRN. "The more I learned about that opportunity and the more I learned about DiLullo and [Aruba CEO] Dominic Orr's commitment to the channel as their overall growth, it was a really hard opportunity to not look at really closely."

Bill Xydias, director of marketing at Integration Partners, a Lexington, Mass.-based Avaya and Aruba partner, said he is glad to see Soderlund land at another vendor partner within the Integration Partners portfolio.

"It's always refreshing when a familiar face lands at another partner that we support. We are excited about it," Xydias said. "It will be interesting to see how his influence will continue to evolve Aruba's channel program."

Xydias said he has definitely noticed Aruba investing more in its channel over the past year or so, through the hiring of additional channel reps and more regularly communicating with partners. He also said he is interested to see the potential impact Soderlund might have on Aruba's product portfolio.

"I know Karl [Soderlund] was a big proponent of data networking at Avaya, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out at Aruba, which is predominantly focused on wireless."

As Aruba's vice president of worldwide channels, Soderlund will be tasked with breaking down the silos between Aruba's three channel theaters -- the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific -- and driving more unity across the three.

"Each of the channel leads reported into the theaters, so, in a way, it was managed pretty disparately," Soderlund said. "Although there was a consistent channel program, it was still really hard to have that channel evangelist or that community feel."

Soderlund, as an example, said he would like to standardize the way Aruba works with global distributors and systems integrators whose businesses aren't necessarily confined to a single theater.

"In the past, [partners] may have had challenges trying to do a large global deployment because we were almost managing as three separate channel entities," Soderlund said. "They need a manufacturer who can support them."

Soderlund joins Aruba as the vendor is set to kick off its fourth annual partner summit in Las Vegas. He said one of the messages he will stress to partners this week is seeking new opportunities downmarket, especially as smaller organizations start to view wireless as a "de facto" need. Soderlund noted that Aruba products such as its new cloud-based Wi-Fi platform are designed to help partners make new inroads into both the midmarket and SMB space. 

Soderlund also said there's an opportunity to grow Aruba's channel footprint. He said there are around 140 Aruba partners in the U.S. with medal status today, and he would like to see that number doubled or even tripled down the line.

"We need to make sure we have the coverage," Soderlund said. "The demand is there for the product, and I think there is a very big appetite from the end-user community to have more partners."

PUBLISHED MARCH 11, 2014