Opengear Channel Chief On Why Secure Remote Access Is Now A ‘Requirement’

Opengear, a ‘complimentary attach’ to Cisco, Juniper, and Palo Alto products, is seeing great growth and a lot of room for opportunity for partners as demand for secure remote access solutions will only continue to rise, the company’s channel chief, Bryan Keepers, tells CRN.


Bryan Keepers

Opengear’s channel chief feels a little “guilty” about the headway the company has made in the market over the last three years as businesses sought out secure remote access and monitoring solutions.

The Piscataway, N.J.-based provider of network monitoring, data center and IT infrastructure management has seen its offerings go from a nice-to-have to a requirement for many enterprises and it’s proving to be a great conversation starter for channel partners in the process, said Bryan Keepers, Opengear’s director of channel sales, Americas, who has been at the helm for the last eight years. Opengear’s offerings are “adjacent” to other increasingly popular areas of IT, including AI and IoT. Not to mention, Opengear’s offerings play nice with others, including some of the biggest networking providers in the industry, such as Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, and Palo Alto Networks.

Keepers recently sat down with CRN to discuss Opengear’s growth and the trends driving it, the structural changes that he and his team have made to the partner program, including a new tier coming soon to the program for U.S.-based partners, and the company’s position as a “complimentary attach” to third-party IT infrastructure solutions.

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What follows are excerpts from the conversation.

Tell us about the recent growth and demand you’ve seen for Opengear’s offerings?

A lot has changed in the last three years in our business and in a very good way. First off, we’re very fortunate that we have a unique product that solves a business problem. It’s a great conversation starter for resale partners. As I manage the channel side of things here at Opengear, it’s really been an emergence because our product, which is an infrastructure product — a remote network access product — has gone from something that was on a want list, to really something that was a requirement. And so we’ve seen our business grow as a result. As we look at the infrastructure products, like ours, as it turns out, remote network access is important. We provide a product that allows IT managers to get back to stuff that’s not where they are, so they don’t have to roll a truck and they don’t have to hire somebody or get on a plane to go remediate a problem. We have a hardware and software solution that lets them do that. So that’s kind of the unique part. So, it’s a different conversation than most manufacturers are able to do and it’s a complete solution. So that piece combined with remote access becoming a premium and not being able to get into buildings initially, really has helped our product become more of a legacy product and more of a must-have product. We did a 180 I guess in the sense that we see a lot of great results. As we look at the markets that we play in which are many with the remote network piece on top of the infrastructure piece and it covers a lot of things in a data center or a remote location or colocation. We have the product that fits their needs there. So, as we look at other areas that I’m calling adjacent markets, we are we are adjacent to AI or cybersecurity or IoT. And as you look at those solutions and they’re very hot markets, our product is complimentary for certain and everything needs compute.

As an example, I recently got to see the Sphere in Las Vegas for the first time. You can see that amphitheater and obviously it has stuff on the outside and the inside of it. I found out the other day that our product is actually a part of that overall solution. So, as we look at our market, some of the largest companies in the world are using our stuff and with the remote network piece, it’s becoming very important.

What do you think is driving the increasing demand for the technology?

I think what [the COVID-19 pandemic] did is it just opened the eyes of these companies [when] they had some issues come up. As we’re seeing at our company, it gives a [business] the ability to manage those devices remotely and not have to have a person in that location if they don’t choose to. One of the other things that’s really helped our market, or at least our product in general and our growth, is that MSPs and MSSPs are using our products in that same fashion. Some of the larger companies that do MSP and MSSP businesses really well, those companies are using our products and they’re including it in their deployments, so there’s some benefits there. And then a couple other things that are attributed to that is our new mantra is: First day, worst day, every day. If you look at how our products are being used, some of the technology that we’ve announced and released to the market in the last three years is giving companies the ability to put their configuration on one of our boxes, and then they can ship that box to a remote location, and then they have smart hands that are connecting everything together. Then, that [asset] calls home and then it goes in and configures that stack. So, there’s a lot more sophistication to our products. Then, we also offer provisioning too. Once the product is in place and companies need to need to update firmware, we have given them the ability to do it and all of that lays over the top of our software platform, which is called Lighthouse. And Lighthouse is very user friendly. I think all of that together has really helped us maintain, sustain and grow that business. So, we got [partners’ and customers’] attention. And then once their attention was gathered there, then they start taking a look at our products and the rest is history.

What changes have been made to the partner program to accommodate this growth?

We’ve actually had a lot of changes, mostly structural changes. And as I go back to that, I keep mentioning that we have a unique product offering and it’s great that we do, but I think awareness is our biggest impediment to success. I tell companies that all the time. One of the things we did in the last couple of years was we streamlined and improved our deal registration process. In the past, the approvals were done by a small group of people. We’ve opened that up to our regional managers now having the ability to make the decisions on that and streamline that for the reseller partner. Any negative feedback that we ever got was: “Your deal reg processes isn’t as easy as we’d like it,” so we’ve actually added the partner portal as well. We’ve continued to modify and improve that so that the deal regs are going through our partner portal. We have some rich content there that the companies are able to use when they need some information. And then we have continued to grow the team from a channel perspective. We have three regional channel sales managers, we have a distribution sales manager, we have a general marketing person, and we have a channel sales engineer that are all part of the team. As we continue to grow in the Americas, all those things combined, it really helps us stay ahead of things in that regard.

We’ve been playing around with a with a new tier this year that we launched in the Canada and the Latin American market. We’re calling it the Emerging tier. What we’re seeing is we have these partners that are adopting products and bringing them into their portfolio and it’s more transactional, where we have the end users are dictating what they want, and the resellers aren’t necessarily connected there. So, the new tier, the Emerging tier; we’re going to expand it from Canada and Latin American to the U.S. market as well in the coming year. What that’s going to be able to do is help people that are getting started. We have our top partners, the Premier and Elite tiers that are for established companies that we’re working with and we certainly want to position those who are bringing us the business and working closely with us to be successful. So, this year, we feel this is going give them a leg up initially into that. I think that’s going really help people scale a lot faster.

Does Opengear still see itself as a complimentary attach to the likes of Cisco and others?

Absolutely. We are still seeing that [relationship] and in fact, those companies are our customers too. In a lot of these cases, some of these larger solution providers out there are also our customers. We look at examples of us being complimentary attaches to the Cisco’s, and the Juniper’s, and the Palo Alto’s. Our product at its core; you connect in routers and switches, PDUs, firewalls and those types of devices, and they’re connected into our Solid State box that sits in the background and when something goes wrong, it alerts whoever’s managing the network. So, that gives us that complimentary piece and that kind of goes back to that unique selling opportunity piece, too. So, we are definitely still a complimentary to some of the largest manufacturers in the world, which is nice.

What are your plans for 2024?

[The end of September] is the end of our fiscal year. So, we’re a little bit further along than most companies in that regard since we run on a different calendar than most companies do. From the channel side of it in 2024, we’re not making a lot of changes. Adding that Emerging tier, I think it comes back to, 80-85 percent of our business goes through the channel and of that we have the tier, and we look at the partners whom we’ve developed good relationships with. For us, we certainly don’t want to disrupt that. So, adding this emerging tear into the U.S. market, I think is really going to help us bring up the number of new partners that we’re seeing. And then they’re popping into our ecosystem and they’re adopting our products, and they’re seeing what the results are. So, I’m really optimistic about that. we did just this last year, we just released our new CM8100 [Console Server] series piece of hardware, which is for the hyperscale market, so we continue to look at trends on the hardware side of it. And then, as we look at where we do really well, it’s in manufacturing and finance, and a lot of areas in entertainment. What we’re trying to do is find those partners who do really well in that space and then introduce them to our products. And I think that’s going to be a recipe for success this coming year.