Enterasys Sweetens Partner Discounts, MDFs As Extreme Acquisition Looms

Fresh off a year it says spurred "record progress" in its channel, Enterasys Networks is hoping to maintain that momentum in 2014 with a new presales partner certification, increased market development funds (MDFs) and heftier discounts on partner-initiated deals.

The updates come as Enterasys is set to be acquired by fellow networking vendor Extreme Networks. The deal, announced last month, is set to roughly double the companies in size, and has, so far, won the approval of both Enterasys and Extreme partners.

"We are very excited about [the Extreme acquisition] because we feel like it gives us the size, in the marketplace, to make a huge difference," said Charlie Van Pelt, director of North American channels, at Enterasys.

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Van Pelt stressed that, for now, it's still "business as usual" for Enterasys partners. He declined to offer specifics around the integration of the Enterasys and Extreme partner programs, but said a plan is in the works.

The Enterasys Network Advantage Partner Program updates for 2014, according to Van Pelt, are targeted largely at partner enablement and allowing solution providers to sell Enterasys products more independently than they have in the past.

"Our claim to fame is customer service and support. We are very good at taking care of customers -- that's our brand, and this is who we are," Van Pelt told CRN. "But sometimes that means that, because we do such a great job taking care of [customers], we now need to make sure our partners are enabled to do that too."

One way Enterasys hopes to boost partner enablement is through a new partner certification called Enterasys Certified Solutions Engineer (ECSE). According to Van Pelt, ECSE is the first sales-, rather than technical-focused, partner certification to be included in the Enterasys partner program.

ECSE will focus primarily on partners' presales capabilities, and within the next year, will be a requirement for partners to reach Gold, Platinum or Diamond status within the Enterasys program.

"We will give a grace period, but are still working out the details there," Van Pelt said.

There will be three different types of ECSE certifications: one focused on Enterasys' BYOD or mobile edge products, one focused on its data center technologies, and one that encompasses both these technology sets, along with Enterasys' One Fabric offering.

In order to receive an ECSE certification, partners will need to complete a series of training requirements and perform a live demonstration of Enterasys products to an internal Enterasys systems engineer. Partners may be able to test out of certain requirements, Van Pelt said.

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Chip Thompson, general manager at LevelOne Technology, a Waco, Texas-based solution provider and Enterasys partner, said the new ECSE certification and trainings will help partners rely less on Enterasys' Systems Engineers Account Executives (SEAE) when finding and closing deals.

"In the past, [partners] have relied heavily on the SEAE teams," Thompson said. "So the partner community will now be able to act a big more independently and then use the SEAE teams as a closing tool, or when they get into a more technical installation or configuration or application."

Thompson also said he liked that the ECSE certification would allow partners to take over the demo process at end-customer sites, as it creates more stickiness between partners and their customers.

"Typically, the partner would find the deal, and then the SEAE teams follow up and go do the demo," Thompson said. "Partners would go with them, but I would rely on the SEAE team members to really drive the presentation."

In addition to the new ECSE certification, Enterasys this year has committed to a tenfold increase in partner MDFs, along with additional margins on partner-initiated deals. Specifically, North American partners will be eligible to receive an additional 10 percent discount on any deals they independently find and register. There will be a $10,000 minimum order to qualify for the discount.

"Partners don't want to have deals just flipped to them," Van Pelt said. "They want to be part of the process. So this year we are focused on that."

According to Van Pelt, the changes being made to the Enterasys partner program in 2014 are the latest in a series of changes Enterasys has made to sweeten the deal for partners.

Last year, for instance, Enterasys implemented a new Sales Development Representative (SDR) team exclusively focused on driving leads for the channel.

"We have had the team in place over the last two quarters, and it is amazing the number of leads that we have. We have now hundreds of leads that we are providing to partners as a result of this," Van Pelt said. "And when I say a 'lead,' it's not just a name. We actually have our SDRs set an appointment with our team, and with a channel partner team, to go out to that [potential customer]."

Enterasys in 2013 also created a new packaged demand generation program that lets partners pick from a "menu" of different demand generation initiatives, including lunch-and-learns and other marketing events.

As a result of these efforts, Van Pelt said, Enterasys in 2013 saw a 20 percent year-over-year increase in the number of partners it has, making over $1 million in annual revenue. The company also saw a 225 percent increase in North America partner technical training attendance compared to the previous year.

Van Pelt said Enterasys has roughly 1,300 active worldwide partners and 450 active partners in North America. The goal now, he said, isn't necessarily to grow that number, but to enhance the relationship Enterasys has with its existing partner base.

"Where we find success is not in quantity," Van Pelt said. "We find success in those partners with which we have a mutual commitment."