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F5 Networks Channel Chief: 'Channel Attitude' Will See Firm Through Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is hitting the tech industry and its end customers, but working closely with partners is F5's secret weapon when it comes to overcoming new challenges, said F5's new Channel Chief Colleen McMillan.

Colleen McMillan, F5 Networks’ new Global Channels Lead, has spent the last three months experiencing the company's channel attitude firsthand. In fact, the company's unwavering commitment to partners is what drew her to her latest role.

Seattle-based application delivery specialist F5 has been going though a major transition as cloud shakes up the application delivery market, but one thing that's not changing is its strong culture built around partners. The company earns about 90 percent of its revenue through the channel today, and its partner-first approach has "far exceeded" her expectations, McMillan told CRN.

"There's strong alignment from the top down," she said. "The last thing you want to do as a channel person is join a company and then find out they're not fully in, but we are channel-first, and we're not moving away from that."

[Related: F5 Networks CEO Locoh-Donou On Forging Customer-Focused Culture With Partners]

McMillan joined F5 in December as its vice president of global channel sales. Prior to that, she held several channel leadership positions for the likes of VMware, Citrix, Qlik, and most recently, Gemalto, formally known as SafeNet.

Her vast channel experience is helping McMillan and her team evaluate consumption models and products and make changes that will help customers use F5's solutions in a multi-cloud world.

F5 Networks has been shifting its focus to cloud. The company has recently deepened its relationships with the leading public cloud heavyweights, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

Many businesses today are leaning heavily on a hybrid cloud approach, so maintaining the same level of performance regardless of an application's location is critical, McMillan said.

Digital transformation is making applications not only grow in shear volume, but they're becoming one of the most important assets for companies, she said. "I think it's interesting that F5 views applications as the primary vehicle to which businesses are delivering on their goods and services. As companies invest in digital transformation, they have to look at modernizing their applications."

As applications become even more important to an organization, these businesses have to know how their applications are being stored -- whether off or on-premise -- and used. That's where F5's technologies can come into play to help reduce risk and ensure performance and reliability, she said.

The F5 application services portfolio includes its flagship Big-IP Local Traffic Manager, Access Policy Manager, and Application Manager. The portfolio also includes its Big-IP Cloud Edition. F5's security portfolio includes Silverline services for DDoS protection, threat intelligence, and a web application firewall.

Businesses going through digital transformation are relying on partners -- they’re the subject matter experts, McMillan said. That's why F5 is actively investing in its channel efforts.

"I'm looking to help our partners grow and develop themselves, and make sure that F5 is providing the right programs and tools to help support that success and business outcomes with their customers."

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