F5 Gives VARs An Edge

The vendor also plans to give top-level partners access to its Salesforce.com database and is launching a much-anticipated deal-registration program for its flagship Big-IP application traffic management lineup, giving partners additional up-front discounts for registered deals.

The reinvigorated channel effort, dubbed Partner Lifecycle Programs, is spearheaded by Vice President of North American Channels Dean Darwin, a former sales manager at Network Appliance and six-year Cisco Systems veteran who joined F5 four months ago.

“We looked ourselves in the mirror and said, ‘We call ourselves channel-friendly. Are we really putting skin in the game?&' ” Darwin said.

The move comes as F5 steps into the growing WAN optimization/application acceleration market through its acquisition of Swan Labs, completed last month.

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Under the new channel strategy, Seattle-based F5 plans to bring partners into deals earlier in the process, whereas before F5 field reps typically brought in channel partners only after holding several meetings themselves with the potential client, Darwin said.

“For every opportunity created, our channel team is going in and selecting a channel partner, then teaming with the account manager and the three of them will tackle it together,” Darwin said.

Solution providers will now have time to build in their own value-add through additional product and services sales, said Michael Braverman, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Corporate Technologies, a solution provider based in Burlington, Mass.

“We&'ll do a better job of articulating their value, asking more needs-oriented questions up front and not getting into [speeds and feeds],” Braverman said. F5 is also testing an online partner portal that will give Gold-level partners access to its Salesforce.com database. “They can see all the notes generated, so it&'s true sharing,” Darwin said.

With the new deal-registration program for Big-IP, F5 is providing extra discounts to partners for 90 days, designed to protect solution providers from bidding wars after they&'ve spent time and money creating customer demand.

“Now we have some security that our investment is going to work if the customer chooses the solution,” said David Lesser, president and CTO of Nexum, a Chicago-based partner.