Aruba Refocus On Channel At 'All-Time High'

Karl Soderlund

It is an interesting time to be an Aruba Networks VAR as partner commitment has hit an "all-time high," said Aruba Vice President of Worldwide Channels Karl Soderlund. The $700 million company is refocusing its efforts on 4,500 global channel partners by allowing VARs to handle professional services so they can have higher margins, creating new technologies, dishing out marketing funds with no hassle and hiring new executives.

"When Aruba brought on Jim Harold [vice president of the channel] and Karl Soderlund [vice president of worldwide channels], solution providers saw it as a move to reinvest and refocus channel efforts," said Bill Tracy, director of solution architecture at the Portland, Ore.-based solution provider Structured Communication Systems, an Aruba and Juniper partner. "We've had some pretty explosive growth with Aruba Networks over the last couple years in the tune of close to 100 percent year-over-year ... Those guys really helped drive change for the partner community by making sure that we ensured good margins on deals that we originated and led the sales cycle on."

Soderlund said Aruba does not have a professional services arm, but instead looks at its partners to conduct those services so they can receive higher margins.

[Related: Aruba Networks Preps Channel Team, Partners For Major SMB Offensive]

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"If the VARs go out and sell their professional services, it’s a much richer business for them," said Soderlund. "In the marketplace, hardware manufacturers are going to be anywhere from 5 points to 20 percent of margin on hardware, but professional services are 40, 50, 60 percent margins … We really allow a partner to be the full system integrator. Around 98 percent of our business is through the partner community."

Dan Ferguson, CEO and president of AdvanTel, a San Jose, Calif.-based solution provider and Avaya and Aruba partner, said business is booming, with Aruba revenue in the last year quadrupling.

"We've spent six months building a funnel, and what we've experienced recently is a hockey stick -- it's popped," said Ferguson. "So we're really happy with that."

Ferguson said Aruba gave his company a lot of focus and recourses after identifying them as an up-and-coming partner.

"They have a pretty good program in place to take a new partner and provide some programs for them to allow to ramp that business. Aruba helped us offset costs to help us keep going forward," said Ferguson.

Tracy said Aruba gives them the flexibility to be more nimble and focused by implementing new technologies, such as Aruba Instant APs, which allow his company to be better prepared to compete in the market.

"With Aruba, I can seamlessly start a customer with an Instant AP, and then either overlay management features to extend the functionality or convert those to a controller-based AP down the road if there needs [to be] change without doing a refresh of the whole environment," said Tracy. "It's great."

NEXT: Solution Provider Talks About ClearPass

Ferguson said Aruba's access management software, ClearPass, which offers secure provisioning and management capabilities for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac OS X, is a big hit.

"That's where we see a lot of enterprise companies looking at Aruba as their primary choice," said Ferguson.

ClearPass includes automated device provisioning, self-service mobile device network configuration -- that is, cloud-based configuration of a device's 802.1x settings -- device profiling, device risk management and guest access as an all-in-one. In March, Aruba also unveiled new features to the ClearPass access management system, including ClearPass Exchange, which integrates and shares data between Aruba ClearPass and other third-party systems.

"They also have an excellent 802.11 ac product, so they have kept up with the technology," said Ferguson. "[For] Customers who are looking to upgrading [their] existing wireless network, Aruba is considered right now the best of breed."

Soderlund said the goal is to be the leader in mobility and wireless by having technologies available across the IT landscape.

"We look at the market, whether it’s a small to medium enterprise, a large enterprise, or a service provider, we want to make sure that we have technologies that go across all areas," said Soderlund.

Aruba launched a new platform called Aruba Mobile Engagement in November that helped public venues, such as sports stadiums and hospitals, provide more accurate location-based services to mobile users.

Another hopeful sign for solution providers is the amount of MDFs and co-op funding Aruba is dishing out to partners.

"Getting funding for events has been little to no problem," said Tracy. "Aruba, as a proportion of revenue, offers good discretionary MDF and co-op funds for us to use that we do a lot of joint marketing events with, and strategic multivendor marketing events."

In addition, Aruba expects greater than 20 percent year-over-year growth.

"About 98 percent of our business is through the partner community," said Soderlund. "For us to continue to grow, it's always listening to our partners and looking to see how we can actually put more innovated and created programs to allow them to be more successful and help our end-user customers."