Riverbed: New Partner Program Driving 'Fundamental Shift' In Channel Engagement

Fresh off its global sales and partner conference in San Francisco last month, Riverbed and its partners say they are already reaping the benefits of Riverbed's recently redesigned channel program.

"The feedback has been overwhelmingly very, very positive," said Keith Hoskison, senior vice president, worldwide channels and strategic account programs at Riverbed.

Introduced in November, the new Riverbed partner program had two primary aims. First, Riverbed wanted to start rewarding and ranking partners not on their sales volumes, but on their ability to earn a new set of Riverbed technical certifications or "competencies." Secondly, the program is designed to incent partners to sell more than Riverbed's flagship WAN optimization products, especially as the San Francisco-based vendor looks to expand its footprint in areas like storage and network performance management.

[Related: Riverbed Shakes Up Sales Team, Names New Global Channel Chief ]

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To encourage partners to sell across the Riverbed portfolio, the new partner program segments partners into three categories -- Authorized, Premier and Elite -- based on the number of Riverbed technical and sales certifications they hold, rather than on their overall Riverbed sales. Out of the gate, Riverbed is offering four certifications: WAN Optimization, Storage Delivery, Application Delivery and Performance Management.

To reach Elite status -- which offers higher discounts and other partner perks -- solution providers must hold at least three out of the four Riverbed certifications.

According to Riverbed, partners are embracing this new model because they not only see it as an opportunity to broaden their own product portfolios but also feel like Riverbed is more invested in partners than it has been in the past.

"There has been a fundamental shift at Riverbed that is really focusing on the channel and the channel's engagement," said Michele Hayes, senior director, global channel programs and strategy at Riverbed. "Partners are feeling that. They are now being rewarded based on their investment."

Steve Inman, president of VistaOne, a solution provider and Riverbed partner headquartered in Atlanta, said the new Riverbed partner program has been "great so far."

"It recognizes and rewards the partners who have invested in the respective practice areas that make up the new Riverbed platform," Inman said.

NEXT: Pushing Beyond WAN Op

Since the new program launch, Riverbed said 72 percent of its roughly 2,220 worldwide partners have already obtained two certifications or more, and it has seen a five-fold increase in partner training attendance.

"We are seeing an uptick in more of a portfolio or platform [play], which is one of the key things we were trying to do -- to get the partners to nudge beyond just WAN optimization," Riverbed's Hoskison said.

Riverbed also said that 11 percent of its partners at the Premier and Elite levels hold certifications in each of the four technology segments, with that number continuing to grow "week to week."

Riverbed plans on making further changes to its partner program, including the launch this quarter of a cloud-focused program for partners selling its Stingray Content Delivery Cloud. "The framework on that is being finalized right now," Riverbed's Hayes said.

Riverbed's partner conference last month came just days after hedge fund and Riverbed investor Elliott Management offered to buy Riverbed for $3.08 billion, in an effort to bring forth other takeover bids.

Hoskison said Riverbed CEO Jerry Kennelly addressed the bid on stage at the partner conference, with Kennelly telling solution providers that Elliott's offer undervalued the company. During the conference, the Riverbed board formally shot down Elliott's offer.

Hoskison said partners at the conference didn't express any concern over the Elliott bid.

"I can tell you straight up that of all the partners I met with, there wasn’t a single one that teed up this topic," Hoskison told CRN.