Riverbed Revamps Partner Program, Focuses On Technical Certifications

Riverbed Monday rolled out a redesigned partner program that includes a value- rather than volume-based rewards structure and categorizes partners not on their Riverbed sales but on their ability to earn a new set of Riverbed technology certifications.

The new program, which goes into effect Jan. 6, also is meant to nudge partners beyond Riverbed's flagship WAN optimization portfolio and toward its growing line of storage delivery and performance management products.

"We have expanded significantly over the last five years, in terms of moving beyond just a network performance, bandwidth optimization and acceleration principle to one of an overall performance solution," said Randy Schirman, senior vice president of worldwide channels at Riverbed, San Francisco. "And we needed to ensure that, as our end users were evolving and Riverbed was evolving, that we were evolving our partner community as well."

[Related: Riverbed Accelerates Steelhead WAN Optimization Appliance With RiOS 8.5 ]

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The new Riverbed partner program will no longer rank the company's 2,100 worldwide partners as Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond. These designations, which were based exclusively on partners' sales volumes, are being replaced by a new set of partner categorizations: Authorized, Premier and Elite.

Partner discounts range between 10 percent at the lowest-end Authorized level and 45 percent at the highest-end Elite level. Other benefits, such as deal registration, also are based on partner ranking.

"The idea here is that, with a value-based model, the more you, as a partner, invest in Riverbed, the greater ability you have to separate yourself from the masses in terms of your stature, your profitability, the benefits and rewards, and the strategic alliance Riverbed places on you as partner," Schirman said.

Whether partners fall under the Authorized, Premier or Elite status is determined by the number of Riverbed technology certifications, or "competencies," that they earn. To start, Riverbed is offering four partner competencies: WAN Optimization, Storage Delivery, Application Delivery and Performance Management.

The new competencies reflect Riverbed's efforts to diversify its traditionally WAN optimization-focused product portfolio over the past few years. In October 2012, for instance, the company grew its application performance management footprint with its $1 billion acquisition of APM specialist Opnet Technologies.

Riverbed said the WAN Optimization competency focuses on its flagship Steelhead products, while the Storage Delivery competency focuses on its Granite portfolio, and the Application Delivery and Performance Management competencies focus on its Stingray and Cascade portfolios, respectively.

To earn the Elite status, partners are required to hold a minimum of three Riverbed competencies and pull in at least $5 million in Riverbed sales annually. Elite is the only partner level that has a bookings requirement, according to Riverbed.

NEXT: Riverbed Partner Training, Other Program Details

Premier partners, meanwhile, need to hold at least one competency, while Authorized partners don't need to hold any competencies.

Riverbed said partners can still sell a product even if they don't a hold a competency in that particular technology area, but the discounts on those sales will be no more than 10 percent. Partners qualify for deal registration as soon as they earn one competency.

To receive competencies, partners need to complete online training courses that range from four to seven hours, based on the particular competency. For Elite partners, eight employees -- including four individuals on the sales side and four on the technical side -- need to complete a course to earn the competency. Premier partners must have four employees, also evenly split between technical and sales staff, complete the course.

Steve Inman, president of VistaOne, a Richmond, Va.-based solution provider and Riverbed partner, said he views the program changes and new value-based rewards structure as "very positive." Inman said he especially welcomes the new competency and training requirements, as they allow partners to either go deep with one particular product, or to sell across the entire Riverbed portfolio.

"I think what's really creative about [the program] is that it respects that some companies might have expertise in a given areas versus others," Inman told CRN. "But, at the same time, it encourages holistic participation. It does allow me and my peers to pick and choose, but at the same time, it's in no way a disincentive to become experts in some of the other fields that may not be naturally within our sweet spot."

Riverbed also said it's planning to roll out partner specialties around specific vertical markets, such as state and local government, in 2014.

Riverbed's new partner program comes just days after reports surfaced suggesting the company is pursuing a sale. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Riverbed, amid mounting pressure from an activist fund to increase shareholder value, is working with Goldman Sachs to "study strategic options."

Schirman said Riverbed does not comment on rumor or speculation, but added that "every element of the company is heads-down in a growth mode on all fronts."