CRN Exclusive: F5 Channel Chief Ritchings Heads For The Door; Former Juniper Exec Steps In

F5 Networks channel chief Jim Ritchings is leaving the company after a 15-year stint, CRN has learned, and is being replaced by former longtime Juniper Networks executive and recent F5 hire David Helfer.

"It's been a great run, especially the last three years in the channel," said Ritchings, in an interview with CRN. "The opportunities will continue to get richer for our channel partners and I'm leaving with F5 remaining incredibly well positioned."

Ritchings, who's been senior vice president of Worldwide Channels and Alliances for the past three years, says he's leaving at the end of April and has no plans for where he'll land next. "I'm leaving the next step open right now," he said.

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During Ritching's tenure, F5 revenues skyrocketed from $108 million in 2002 to nearly $2 billion in 2015.

"The thing that I'm most proud of, if you think about the business results F5 has posted over the past ten to twelve years, is the phenomenal growth and financial results," said Ritchings. "The knowledge that as a 100-percent channel company and a company that has a strong business development strategy, it's really evidence that our partner programs played a vital role in that growth."

He joined the Seattle-based application delivery networking vendor in 2001, spending years leading F5's business development and vendor alliance strategy. He was a key driver in forming partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and VMware.

Helfer just became F5's vice president of Worldwide Channels in March of this year, after a short stint at security vendor Lookout, where he served as vice president of Worldwide Channels.

From 2000 to 2014, Helfer held various executive roles at Juniper Networks -- including vice president of Worldwide Channels & Commercial, and vice president of Juniper's Global Partner Organization.

"David is a very well qualified guy. I've spent a lot of time with him and I think it's going to be a real seamless baton pass," said Ritchings. "My top priority and objective is to work very close with David to do the best job that I can do to transition him into this role."

Over the past 12 months, F5 has gone through several key executive shakeups including the abrupt resignation of its former CEO Manny Rivelo in December. Additionally, F5's worldwide marketing leader and former longtime channel chief Dean Darwin left the company in November after more than a decade.

F5, however, also has nabbed some serious talent, such as the recent hire of Peter Brant as its new senior vice president of North America Sales. Brant previously served as security vendor Fortinet's senior vice president of Americas enterprise sales. Aruba Networks, a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, lost its worldwide sales and services leader, John DiLullo, who joined F5 to help lead its sales and channel strategy.

Ritchings says he's leaving F5 at a time where channel partners have more revenue opportunities than ever.

"The explosion of applications and more applications requiring applications services on-premise or in a public cloud or in a hybrid-type format, coupled with all these insidious and pervasive security breaches and hacks -- the opportunity just continues to get richer for our channel," he said.