CRN Exclusive: Optical Networking Firm Infinera Launches Channel Partner Program

Following the $350 million acquisition of Transmode last year, optical networking gear maker Infinera is investing heavily in shifting its sales model from direct to indirect with the launch of a new partner program.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company's new Infinera Partner Program includes financial incentives, market development funds, deal registration, ad-hoc programs, a "homegrown" partner portal and "significant" training tools to enable channel partners to sell its optical networking solutions, said Infinera's senior director of channel sales, Channel Chief Jeff Marinchak.

"After we completed our acquisition of Transmode, we've begun investing heavily in our channel," said Marinchak told CRN. "We've been going from where the majority of our business is direct, to having more of our business go through partners ... Our intention with this program is to drive channel growth at a faster pace than the rest of the business."

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With annual revenues at $1 billion, 16-year old Infinera is searching for solution providers that want to capitalize on the rising demand of bandwidth in service provider and enterprise markets.

"Because of this explosion in bandwidth, optical solutions are becoming more critical to a larger portion of the market and for a larger number of customers," said Vinay Rathore, senior director of solutions marketing at Infinera. "We had to scale this program so we could offer more solutions to more partners around the world."

The new program consists of three tiers: Silver, Gold and Platinum. The company's new partner portal gives the channel access to training, deal registration, product information and MDF requests.

There are no certifications needed to sign for the program, and only a limited investment is initially required, according to Infinera. The channel gets full access to Infinera's services, while the vendor also provides technical support.

Infinera says its direct sales team will work collaboratively with channel partners, but won't impede on partner margins.

"Partners feel like their relationship with hardware vendors is very transactional -- a 'what have you done for me lately?' mentality. We have a different approach," said Marinchak. "We're looking for a long term relationship with partners and expect indirect channel sales to grow faster than the rest of the business."

Infinera makes a full portfolio of optical transport gear, which transmits data as lightwaves over optical fiber. The company's vertically-integrated approach is increasingly rare in telecommunications equipment -- it designs and makes its own chips, hardware systems, software and network management tools for use in metro, long-haul, data center interconnect and subsea networks.

One of its most notable innovations is the use of large-scale photonic integrated circuits (PICs). "We took all these complicated components that typically go into optical networks and we stuck them on a little chip that uses very little power, gets a lot of density and scale, and that technology we're now bringing to the channel," said Rathore.

"We're seeing enterprises having increased bandwidth requirements that a solution like ours can address which is perfect for partners," Rathore said.

Infinera networking solutions include the XTM Series for the metro space, DTN-X Family for subsea and long haul solutions, and its Cloud Xpress Family for the data center interconnect market. Customers include the likes of Facebook, Telstra, Equinix and Liberty Global.

"We want partners who are looking to make an investment to work with a differentiated technology," said Rathore. "This new program is to bring those high bandwidth, optical solutions to our partners and then work with them and train them to become more valuable to their customer."