Page 3 of 3
That Palo Alto is still small enough to quickly tweak its partner program in response to partner feedback, is part of why it appeals so much to the channel, VARs said. The challenge now is to balance new partner recruitment with protecting the loyal VARs that have invested behind Palo Alto, and most solution providers acknowledged that isn't an easy tightrope to walk for a company so obviously focused on growth.
"The program is pretty good but for the partners that have continually engaged and put money in technology resources and done their training, that could increase," said Tobi Sickelsteel, director of sales and marketing, at AmeriNet, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based solution provider.
AmeriNet is among the Palo Alto solution providers that have made a big bet with the vendor, and according to Sickelsteel, AmeriNet now does about 90 percent of its firewall business with Palo Alto Networks after several years focused on Juniper.
"When we were re-evaluating the firewall space we were looking for a solution that was end-to-end," she said. "In the beginning there were other features that they were going to need, but now they're getting into data centers and we're seeing a lot of that."
Other partners said that the company's partner support resources are still a work in progress, but the introduction of deal registration a year ago and the formalizing of other program elements has been consistent.
"They protect registered partners on margins better than most vendors in this space," said SOS Security's Porter.
"If you want us to grow our business, help us grow," said NCI's Timmins. "We need to make a profit to hire more people to help us go out and sell more of your product. I think they see that. You can get to a certain level with them now where you can get good margins. They are true to their word in that they've rewarded us with opportunities. It has to be a two-way street for organizations to be successful, and the people involved have been in other organizations where they've seen what worked and what didn't work and they've brought it to Palo Alto to start from scratch."
Palo Alto has figured out how to align partner programs and marketing with their technology gains in a way it takes other startup vendors years to figure out, said other VARs.
"I like the fact that they know they have something different," said NCA's Gobeille. "It's a time-to-market issue. They don't have a large competitive landscape now, but they will. With their roadmap and passion around doing the right thing and being disruptive, they're wrapping programs around that to support us going to market with them."