F5 Networks Names New North American Channel Chief

Abad joins F5 following a stint as vice president of channel sales for Polycom. Before Polycom, Abad held sales and business development executive positions at Novell, Symbol Technologies (later acquired by Motorola) and other companies.

F5's six-month old Lightning Program has continued to catch on, according to Darwin. The retooled program is designed to give F5's most loyal partners better deal registration and other benefits, and describes specific, publicly available metrics for what partners have to do to qualify for more F5 program rewards.

Abad's role will be managing North American channel partners under Lightning and down to the basic fulfillment VAR level.

"He's my guy, and I've already been hearing from [people] telling us 'great hire,'" said Darwin, who in August was promoted to the global channel chief role from his previous focus on North America. "I'm one guy, and I've got to take Lightning to the rest of the world right now. He will be the pulse of the North American side."

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Since returning to F5 Networks in October 2008, Darwin said he's been working to determine how F5 is perceived in the channel and design programs to help move VARs toward what he called the new paradigm: understanding the data center and its virtualization and cloud implications.

One problem, he noted, is that F5 is sometimes still thought of as a load balancing vendor, per the company's networking roots. Based on a third-party survey of F5 channel partners Darwin commissioned this year, however, many VARs are using F5 to get them into new accounts.

To Darwin, that indicates a class of VARs that see F5 Networks as an on-ramp to better data center opportunities, thanks to how they perceive F5 as a true application delivery networking vendor.

"I think we have a bit of a branding problem in the channel," Darwin said. "I'm really trying to look at exactly how partners look at us and how they sell us. I'm really curious to see how VARs are moving away from the idea of being a security VAR or a storage VAR with some periphery products, and whether they're identifying themselves as a data center VAR or an application delivery VAR. It's as if all of a sudden the partners woke up to us and said, we have something here."