Riverbed Expands North America Distribution, Partner Programs

About 90 percent of Riverbed's WAN optimization products business is indirect channel sales, including through distribution, global reseller agreements with HP ProCurve and EMC, systems integrators, service providers and VARs. Among new changes to its program are new partner programs for large account resellers (LARs), and service providers, three new specialization offerings for partner training, and a new strategy for channel business in SMB.

"We're recognizing that not all partners are created equal," said Johnna Bowley, Riverbed's senior director of worldwide channel and partner marketing. "We're not looking at a model of thousands and thousands of resellers. We want to get to a point where we become very material to partners and they become very material to us to drive highly profitable, valuable services to customers."

"From a distributors' perspective, we're looking to do things like drive incremental staff who are dedicated and focused on Riverbed," Bowley said. "Like everyone says, we are keenly focused on having them be an extension of our sales force. We're not just looking for logistics help."

Bowley said she wants distributors to be an "enablement engine" for Riverbed resellers. Riverbed uses distributors in Europe and Asia, but its recently signed agreements with Avnet and Arrow will mark the first time VARs will be able to acquire Riverbed products through distribution in North America. Riverbed also has a global agreement with Westcon Group specific to its service provider and systems integrator partners.

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Bowley said Riverbed was targeting those distributors that had line cards complementary to Riverbed's existing partnerships and also around how its VARs are designing multi-vendor solution packages. She said Avnet and Arrow are not only well-versed in EMC, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard and other Riverbed allies, but they also specialize in disaster recovery, application optimization, storage platforms and other segments Riverbed sees as target areas.

"We're looking at the traction we have with our alliance partners, and it's probably stronger than it's ever been," Bowley suggested.

Riverbed will not be looking to add any additional distributors in the short-term, she said, but would look at "what makes sense" in the future.

New additions to the Riverbed Partner Network include increased market development funds (MDF) and additional support programs for pre-sale and post-sale, Bowley said. Riverbed also has an inside channel sales team dedicated to small- and midmarket-focused VARs and has created a new lead generation program for to small-and-medium business opportunities.

Riverbed is also for the first time introducing a partner program specific to service providers, which it defines as partners that offer data transport services and managed services and have a network operations center (NOC), but also sell services specifically on a Riverbed platform. Existing partners include AT&T, Verizon, Telus and SingTel, and Riverbed divides its service providers into two categories, Global and Gold.

Riverbed's moves add to the emphasis it's placed on growing its North American channel since March 2009, when it last revamped the partner program to create tiered levels for VARs.

At that time, it also introduced two training programs, the Authorized Training Program and the Riverbed Sales Accreditation Program. Riverbed added three more training programs Tuesday with an eye toward specialization: Riverbed Authorized Support Partner, Riverbed Authorized Training Partner and Riverbed Authorized Consulting Partner, the last of which trains VARs on professional services.

All existing partners can apply, Bowley said.

"I do believe there's a place for all of these partners because they offer a very unique kind of value," Bowley said. "Now we have a very formal program that we can look at and say, here's program A for the VAR and program B for the service provider and keep the playing field level."