Upgraded F5 Networks' Partner Program To Promote Software, Services Sales: Exclusive

Unity+, F5 Networks' just-launched partner program, will incentivize partners selling application services and solutions, Colleen McMillan, vice president of global channel sales for F5, tells CRN.

F5 Networks is unveiling a channel program aimed at equipping its channel partners with what they need to sell more software and services.

The program, called F5 Unity+, is designed to incentivize and reward partners selling application services and solutions, not just those that are closing hardware sales, Colleen McMillan, vice president of global channel sales for F5, told CRN.

F5 historically has had good incentives in place for channel partners and offered good margins and deal protection, said Jim Quarentillo, partner, federal accounts for GuidePoint Security, a Herndon, Va.-based F5 partner. But as the company shifts in favor of more subscription-based offerings, the program needs to also adapt to incentivize partners, Quarentillo said.

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"I've always held F5's channel program up there as one of the best programs, so I'm always looking to see things evolve, but I'm hoping they don't deviate from what they've done really well for the last 20 years," he said.

[Related: F5 Networks CEO: Nginx Is ‘Absolutely Core' To F5's Strategy]

The updated program reflects the evolution that F5 has been going through as the Seattle-based application delivery specialist puts more of an emphasis on software and cloud-based offerings, McMillan said.

CompuNet, a Boise-Idaho-based solution provider and F5 and NGINX partner, has grown its services-based revenue exponentially with the help of F5's partner program, said Michael Leonhardt, global solutions architect of advanced solutions for CompuNet.

“F5 is helping us evolve into a more application-focused company for our customers," Leonhardt said. “This year alone, we doubled our services revenue around F5's portfolio across all our verticals, like city and state government, healthcare, education and retail.”

CompuNet is looking forward to working with F5 through the new Unity+ partner program to work more with the company's service organization. “There's a perception from a lot of customers that the manufacturer has all the experts, and that's not the truth -- it's actually the VARs and the partners in the field who have experience and can deliver. I think the new partner program will focus on the partners that are driving value,” he said.

The Unity+ partner program will help support partners beyond their traditional booked revenue incentives and will reward the partners that are actively transitioning to new strategic IT areas and managed services, McMillan said.

“Technology is changing, buying behavior is changing, so this new program will not only pull in different routes to market under one umbrella, including NGINX and cloud, it also allows us to wrap our investments and different tools together to help partners make the transition,” she said.

Unity+ will also let partners transact with their customers in any way they'd like, including adopting a more subscription-based model or remain in the traditional VAR model, she added. “It's the ultimate in flexibility for our partners,” McMillian said.

F5 will continue to invest in field sales alignment support, flexible training, and market development funds, the company said.

All partners will be moved to the Unity+ program on Oct. 1, the start of F5’s fiscal 2020. Partners will carry over their status from the previous year but will begin to earn qualification for the fiscal year 2021 based on the new Unity+ requirements, according to F5.