Enterasys Cements Channel Gains, Seeks Greater Partner Presence

The fruits of Enterasys Networks' labor are starting to show a year after it made big bets on a converged networking-data center strategy and that solution providers would be more receptive than ever to alternative vendors with a good channel story to tell.

Enterasys has increased sales through partners by 25 percent, has won over industry analysts that were initially skeptical of another vendor with a so-called fabric strategy and has a fattening pipeline of business with partners in key verticals like education, healthcare and government.

Enterasys, a Siemens Enterprise Communications company, substantially retooled its partner program in early 2011 and, with its partners, focused heavily on data center, wireless networking, and security, among other areas. All of those markets are important to OneFabric, Enterasys' open, standards-based platform that can be deployed using a customer's existing infrastructure, gradually as a customer expands his usage needs and upgrades products, and offers a stem-to-stern management platform for everything from mobile devices to the core data center assets.

[Related: Enterasys Partners: OneFabric Strategy Gives Us An Edge ]

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It's a winning strategy, said Ram Appalaraju, Enterasys vice president of marketing.

"Customers want to solve problems using fewer resources and not have ongoing management headaches," Appalaraju said, in a recent interview with CRN at Enterasys' Andover, Mass., headquarters. "We understand the nuances that come from virtualization all the way to mobile devices, and we've made a network pertinent to them. The phased approach is the key. Businesses are able to foresee what needs to come next, and that makes their decisions strategic."

Charlie Van Pelt, director of North American channels, said Enterasys has spent less time in the past year recruiting "transactional" partners than targeting solution providers who can sell infrastructure and data center and tell more of the convergence story.

Enterasys has brought on about 400 new partners around the world since 2011, and about 90 percent of Enterasys' sales now go through the channel. But, the goal is quality partners and also encouragement of existing partners to offer the whole Enterasys portfolio.

"We're being more selective," Van Pelt said. "About 20 percent of our partners are fully able to sell that way now. We want to have much more presence in our partners, and we're getting that."

Some of its recent channel incentives have helped the effort. Enterasys spiffs partners who bring in new opportunities, for example, and also provides back-end rebates for successfully closed new business.

But, it's also continued to expand OneFabric, with such recent offerings as the Enterasys Mobile Identity and Access Manager (IAM) -- a piece of OneFabric's Security offering, available as a physical or virtually-deployed appliance for about $8 per monitored mobile device.

"This is tangible -- these are things they can make money with," Van Pelt said, describing the way Enterasys wants to build channel offers on the OneFabric concept. "Our customers don't have to replace everything, and we can manage it, very simply, whether wired or wireless."

NEXT: Getting Partners To Think About OneFabric In Terms Of SDN Trend

Enterasys is also getting partners to think about OneFabric in the context of the software-defined networking (SDN) trend, Enterasys' Appalaraju said. The majority of Enterasys' 800-plus patents, he said, are in software, and OneFabric itself is right in line with the SDN ideal of programmable, easier-to-manage network infrastructure.

"You can take away complexity by building a credible software architecture that performs the networking function," he explained. "We are a software-defined networking company. We have all the intelligence, from the support, and scalability, to the similar look and feel between wired and wireless. That's all done in software. We're watching the industry commoditize on some of the hardware, and if such a thing continues to happen, we are ready."

Pyrinex, a Blacklick, Ohio-based solution provider, has been an Enterasys partner for about a year and a half and has about $500,000 in pipeline Enterasys business over the next 12 months, said Ashley Haynes, director of business development.

Pyrinex has substantial relationships with Cisco and HP, but Haynes said Enterasys' switching and wireless options have been appealing for midmarket customers seeking mature products at more favorable price points.

"It's been a real pleasure working with them," Haynes said. "The product itself, both the switch product and the wireless products, is really easy to configure and deploy, as is NetSight [the network management product]. They give us a lot of attention, too, on the marketing side."

Pyrinex had a county government customer in Ohio that had raved about Enterasys, Haynes recalled, which is how Enterasys and Pyrinex first partnered.

Enterasys is challenged by a comparative lack of marketing air cover and markets where Cisco is deeply entrenched. But, Haynes said Enterasys has an advantage in that financial pressures are also pushing customers to look at more price-conscious alternatives to Cisco.

"A reason I think they're moving forward is the economy, not just the good channel programs," he said. "We have clients, specifically K-12 education clients, where it plays very well. I've got districts point-blank saying to me that they're not interested in Cisco because they have to cut costs. So, you think about Enterasys and the mature product and the lifetime warranty, and you have a really good fit for midsize and SMB customers. Companies are more apt to talk to someone like Enterasys now where they might not have before."