Riverbed No Longer 'Product-Centric,' Launches Services-Oriented Partner Program

Riverbed Technology is changing its channel strategy by enabling partners to sell more services to drive new recurring revenue streams with less of a focus on just selling products.

Karl Meulema, vice president of global channels and channel chief at Riverbed, told CRN the San Francisco-based vendor wants to "change the relationships with our partners" with a revamped Partner Program that puts recurring revenue services above single-product WAN optimization sales.

"We were a product-centric company very deeply focused on WAN optimization, but we're now much more focused on a portfolio of solutions and moving away from single-product selling," said Meulema in an interview with CRN.

[Related: Riverbed Launches SteelCentral Portal, Promises Partners ROI]

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Riverbed unveiled the new channel strategy to about 180 partner organizations during its first Global Partner Summit in San Diego this week.

"We want to help educate, train and enable [partners] to understand how to take some of our database services and embed them in larger programs that give them adjacent services opportunities that increase the amount of dollars they're pulling through," said Art Harding, senior vice president for worldwide professional services at Riverbed.

"WAN optimization, what we may have viewed historically as just installation of technology projects, [now] the right partners can combine converged infrastructure at the branch, branch of the future, WAN optimization, into real enterprise re-architecture projects. We want to work with our partners to build out those services programs."

Harding said Riverbed will work closely with partners to build "customized and tailored" service program offerings that fit into their business model.

Riverbed partners applauded the recurring-revenue services push as a much-needed change.

"We're not going to survive selling boxes, not when you've got big companies out there, like Verizon, CDW, Dell, throwing boxes at people for very little margin," said Pat Grillo, CEO of Atrion Communications Resources, a Branchburg, N.J.-based solution provider and longtime Riverbed partner. "This works for us because we have made the change this year to being much more customer-service-focused. We're trying to do a lot more professional services."

Grillo said the need for a partner to have "strong" value added is more important now than ever.

"It's going to be more of a solutions sell with a lot of professional services wrapped around it -- as a matter of fact, there's going to be times where we're going to just be doing the professional services, not even selling the product," said Grillo.

Riverbed say it has been reducing its in-house professional services staff over the past two years in order to lower any competition with the channel sales team.

The revamped program also gives partners demo equipment at a lower price. Most hardware can be obtained by partners at an 80 percent discount, compared with an earlier discount of 64 percent, while all software will be given to partners for free, as will free support for the first year.

"Our partners made it clear they want more access to demo equipment at a better price," said Meulema.

Riverbed has been investing in sales development to generate better leads for partners as well as creating a more "robust" partner portal with richer content and an improved deal-registration process.

Meulema said 95 percent of Riverbed's business runs through the channel and it is "rapidly" approaching 100 percent. He told CRN to expect more partner services opportunities in the future around cloud offerings.

"Not in this go-round, but in the works [are] the next steps to further enhance and enable our partners in building out their own cloud environment," said Meulema.