SonicWall Revamps Channel Program For Enterprise VARs, MSPs

SonicWall executives say that the newly launched Channel 2.0 program, announced earlier this week, represents a major restructuring of its existing channel, adding benefits and increased levels of support designed for top-tier enterprise and managed service VARs. In addition, SonicWall also enhanced support and incentives for its SMB partners by adding new components to its Medallion Partner Program.

"We're adding a whole range of new program benefits, from smallest to largest (levels)," said Ted Hulsey, senior manager of channel marketing for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SonicWall. "It is really far-reaching. It touches every aspect of our partner program."

The Channel 2.0 initiatives were launched six months ago in an effort to help partners overcome challenges and give them a competitive edge in the waning economy, executives said.

"We knew it was going to be a flat year for the IT security space. Every deal that's done out there is going to have to be fought over," Hulsey said. "What we're looking to do is add a program that helps our partners win more market share."

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Meanwhile, partners say the added programs and incentives were a direct result of partner feedback.

"They've taken a lot of time to speak to the VARs and found out what was important before they launched this," said Todd Barrett, director of sales for CPU Sales & Service in Waltham, Mass. "I just like the fact that SonicWall is being creative. They've really put a lot of thought into this."

With its new specialization programs, SonicWall is aiming for top-tier VARs in both the enterprise and managed security spaces. With the new Enterprise Integrator Specialization program, qualifying partners will exclusively be able to sell the SonicWall Aventail E-Class Secure Remote Access product line, which Hulsey said was implemented to reward highly trained specialized enterprise partners familiar with the Aventail line. "It's a large training investment," Hulsey said. "We basically want to reward that highly trained workforce by making it highly selective in terms of who has access to the product line."

Enterprise Integrator partners will also have access to a no-charge evaluation of the Aventail hardware and a unique "pay to provision" compensation program, in which SonicWall foots the bill for the installation of qualifying evaluations -- features that Barrett says strongly resonated with him.

"Having the distribution channels tighter makes a lot more sense to us," Barrett said. It's hard to sell commodity product. It's hard to make money. You have to specialize."

In addition, Enterprise Integrator partners will have direct access to many of SonicWall's Fortune 2000 install base of Aventail E-class SRA management accounts, and be the first in line to receive technical support from the company's top enterprise sales and engineering staff.

As part of the restructuring, SonicWall also targeted the growing segment of managed service VARs and partners adopting SaaS components in their portfolios. One key element of the MSP Specialization program is that the MSP VARs will be provided with significantly higher levels of technical support, in addition to receiving enhanced profit margins on select security service and software SKUs.

The MSP Specialization program resonates strongly with partners looking to adopt managed service components into their offerings.

"That's definitely got my interest," said Monte Robertson, CEO of, Lakewood, Colo. "In the long run, managed services is not only the future, but that's where we're going now. The field is huge; there's a lot of options out there."

For the company's core SMB partner base, the restructuring included better deal registration with more discounts and presales assistance. A revamped Partner Rewards Program will also allow Medallion Partners to earn credit for closing sales redeemable for cash or apply it toward training and other benefits.

Barrett said that deal loss protection in the program's deal registration component was important "knowing we're going to put all this time and effort into a product and knowing that we could get undercut by a company with a leaner price."

Partners say that, in general, SonicWall's revamped channel program stays consistent with industry trends in which vendors are putting more emphasis on elements like deal registration and support in order to acquire more business through the channel.

"A lot of vendors are making that more efficient and channel-friendly; it's not just SonicWall," Robertson said. "Throw your net as wide as you can by having the channel out there throwing the net."