Aruba Networks Preps Channel Team, Partners For Major SMB Offensive

Under the new leadership of global channel chief Karl Soderland, Aruba Networks is readying a major midmarket offensive that will see it recruit more SMB-focused partners, bulk up its channel resources and, ultimately, drive sales of its wireless access points into the small- and midsize enterprise (SME).

"I was brought in to evaluate the go-to-market and to see where there was potential opportunities for us to grow with the product lines that we have and the excitement around mobility," said Soderland, who joined Aruba in May from Avaya, where he headed up U.S. channel sales. "This is really about going down market into SME, which is really an untapped market for us."

Underpinning Aruba's SME attack is a new channel team entirely devoted to the SME space, which comprises 16 inside channel account managers based in Aruba's Portland, Ore.-based office. Soderland said one of the immediate goals is to recruit SME-focused partners to join Aruba's channel ranks.

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"I set a global target of 1,500 SME partners that I want to recruit in a year," Soderland told CRN. "Amazingly, these folks have been on the phone for four weeks, and have already recruited 200 net new partners to Aruba."

In addition, Aruba is expanding its Aruba PartnerEdge Program to include partner training, promotions and sales enablement support specific to the SME market. Each new SME partner recruited will go through a 90-day onboarding program that includes dedicated support from an inside channel account manager, demo equipment offers, access to deal registration, and free sales specialist training and certifications.

Aruba also is offering partners and customers a number of SME-specific promotions. Soderlund said Aruba SME customers -- which he described as housing between 50 and 350 users -- can now receive a discount on its Aruba Central cloud management services, in addition to a free Aruba Instant Access Points (AP) when they buy at least four others.

What's more, Aruba is offering partners selling into the K-12 education market a promotion that bundles Aruba Central or AirWave network management offering with its Instant APs at a discounted price. A $20 per Instant AP spiff also is being offered to partner representatives, while distributors can take advantage of a 10 percent back-end rebate on Instant APs and Aruba Central bundles.

Sodlerlund also said Aruba has tweaked the compensation program within its internal channel organization so that a percentage of all channel account managers' (CAM) compensation is tied directly to SME sales.

"Now, every CAM in the field -- whether inside, outside, sales engineer, [or] management -- they are motivated to say, 'Do our partners have an SME strategy?'"

Soderland said it became clear Aruba needed to formalize its SME channel strategy when the new 200 series of Instant APs started to gain traction in that market segment. He said the 200 series is ideal for smaller-- and midsize companies, offering the security features and enterprise-grade WLANs SMEs want, while being more affordable and simpler to manage. Part of this simplicity, he said, stems from Aruba's "controller-less" approach to wireless networking.

According to Soderlund, sales of Aruba's 200 series Instant APs are up 82 percent year-over-year in the SME market.

"We wanted to throw gasoline on that fire," he said.

Shivam Aggarwal, president of SmartLayer Business Solutions, a Calgagy-based Aruba partner, is one of the new, SME-focused solution providers to have joined the Aruba PartnerEdge Program. He said his company has already built a six-month road map for future Instant APs deployments, and expects big growth with the technology, particularly in the hospitality market.

"Aruba is doing things very non-traditionally, which is very new in the industry and the wireless market. There's competition, yes, but I think they are doing it the best," Aggarwal said. "I'm very optimistic about the company and about our partnership with them."