Silver Peak Sharpens Its WAN Op Channel Chops

Fresh off some of its best-ever industry notices, WAN optimization specialist Silver Peak Systems is forging ahead with an updated channel partner program.

Silver Peak Champions, which launched toward the end of 2011, offers gold and platinum partnership levels. Both gold and platinum partners get field resources, sales enablement and marketing tools, while platinum partners receive sales leads, access to micro sites for lead generation assistance, marketing funds and dedicated Silver Peak field sales and marketing team employees.

The Champions program also includes flexible pricing -- perpetual or subscription licensing for Silver Peak products -- deal registration, large discounts on demo equipment, an online partner portal and sales and technical training.

[Related: 15 WAN Optimization Players Solution Providers Should Know ]

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The company does about 99 percent of its revenue through the channel. Katherine Russ-Hotfelter, senior manager for channel marketing, said Silver Peak has 45 partners the company has set about qualifying for the Platinum level. In addition to the listed program benefits, Platinum partners also participate in quarterly business planning sessions with Silver Peak's executive team. Notably, Russ-Hotfelter said, partnership status is not based on a revenue quota.

"We're not trying to use a stick method of 'make this revenue goal or else,'" she said. "If they plan for one number and then they make a quarter of that, we'll look at why that happened. It's important for the relationship."

Silver Peak's relentless channel relationship-building and customer buzz has paid off. In January, it was named to the Leaders quadrant of Gartner's influential Magic Quadrant for WAN Optimization Controllers. WAN op dominator Riverbed also formally acknowledged Silver Peak for the first time in its most recent 10-K filing, listing it alongside Cisco, Citrix and Blue Coat in its mention of "primary competitors."

Storage-oriented channel partners and the OEM relationships Silver Peak has with major storage vendors such as EMC, Hitachi and Dell have been important to its channel gains, but so has a dedicated emphasis on virtual WAN optimization offerings.

Last summer, it introduced its VX-series and VRX-series virtual appliances.

This month, Silver Peak launched what it's calling the Virtual WAN Optimization Marketplace -- an online portal where customers can access all of Silver Peak's virtual WAN optimization appliances along with step-by-step deployment guides for any common network infrastructure and hypervisor. Potential customers can test-drive various Silver Peak virtual appliances, all the way up to its VRX-8, with a 30-day trial license.

"Our customers typically know a lot about virtualization," said Silver Peak President and CEO Rick Tinsley. "So they can take this product directly from our Web site and do their own trial, see how it fits into their architecture."

Silver Peak also plans to franchise the capability and let solution providers and distributors host the marketplace on their own Web sites, Tinsley said.

"We want to make it more readily available for people to test-drive, and for our channel partners to add more value to the process," he said. "This is the first time this has happened in the WAN op space. We're really emphasizing the software nature of our architecture."

According to Tinsley, Silver Peak expects virtual versions of its WAN optimization products to account for 50 percent of all WAN optimization sales within two years, up from the roughly 10 percent they are now. The free VX-Xpress virtual WAN optimizer -- which offers customers 4 Mbps network performance for a single site-to-site implementation -- has been downloaded more than 7,000 times in less than six months, he said.

Netfast Communications, a New York-based networking solution provider, signed on with Silver Peak in early 2011. Stephanie Bice, marketing and customer relations manager, said Netfast had been looking at WAN optimization vendors and found both a strong technology and an appealing channel that "wasn't saturated with partners."

"Over the past year, they've dedicated a tremendous amount of time and resources to improve their partner program," Bice said. "They have a robust partner portal and we like the array of marketing resources and structured co-op marketing opportunities."

Silver Peak targets enterprise networks, and Netfast has also found a fit for Silver Peak products with midmarket customers in the 250 to 1000 seat range, Bice said. With more data demands placed on already-constrained networks, more and varied types of customers are ready to have the WAN optimization conversation. "There's such a focus on maximizing the resources you have and scaling back on hardware," she said. "But customers need ways to bring down costs."