Palo Alto Networks Channel Veteran Now Heading Partner Programs At Splunk

Splunk, the data analysis platform gaining attention for its growing security capabilities, added a former Palo Alto Networks executive to lead its worldwide channel programs.

Splunk named Donna St. John its senior director of worldwide partner programs and development. St. John left Palo Alto Networks in November to spearhead the development of Splunk’s channel program. Splunk has gained attention for being able to do heavy analysis of large machine data sets to aid business intelligence and operational improvements.

The San Francisco-based company has been praised for its log management and alerting capabilities with an anomaly detection engine that pits it against traditional security information event management systems sold by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel Security (formerly McAfee), LogRhythm, RSA and NetIQ. Its impact on the SIEM market is evident with HP making ArcSight product improvements to address competitive pressure felt by Splunk.

[Related: Hewlett-Packard Battling Splunk, IBM To Maintain ArcSight Dominance]

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A Splunk spokesperson said St. John reports to Emilio Umeoka, vice president of global alliances and channels at Splunk. Her role will be similar to the one she played at Palo Alto Networks, strengthening the Splunk sales and marketing processes to support a broader channel operation.

St. John was named to CRN's Women of the Channel Power 100 list in 2014 consisting of the industry's influential female channel executives, a designation she has also carried in previous years. She has been a security industry marketing executive for more than a decade, having begun at Web security vendor Finjan. She led channel marketing at SurfControl (acquired by Websense) and later led worldwide channel programs at McAfee before being named senior director of worldwide channel marketing and programs at Palo Alto Networks in 2012.

At Palo Alto Networks, St. John is credited with developing the company’s partner program compliance methodology and helping partners by overseeing a modernization of the security vendor’s back-end infrastructure that supports the channel. She automated processes to help create closer ties to Palo Alto Networks sales strategy. She also set up systems to support the automation of custom marketing campaigns and launched a new deal registration program, which partners say has been highly successful.

St. John could not be reached for comment. A Palo Alto Networks spokesperson confirmed St. John’s departure. The company has shifted her responsibilities to other people within the channel organization, the spokesperson said.

’The functional areas that previously reported to Donna are now part of the respective global teams managing Palo Alto Networks field sales, technical training, worldwide sales and marketing operations and corporate communications. As a result, our channel activities are globally and functionally in sync with all activities across the business,’ the spokesperson said.

St. John played an instrumental role in communicating and outreach to Palo Alto Networks partners, said Justin Flynn, a consultant and network security specialist with Chicago-based solution provider Burwood Group. She strengthened the relationship with the company and helped foster a strong channel field team operation, Flynn said.

’All the changes that we’ve seen have been positive,’ Flynn said of the Palo Alto Networks partner program. ’The company’s product strategy is in line with broader industry trends and it continues to have strong visibility with our clients and potential clients.’

Palo Alto Networks continues to benefit from its earlier success in the next-generation firewall market, having recently overtaken Fortinet to rank third in IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Security Appliance Tracker in December. The company launched a new Traps endpoint protection technology in 2014 and it continues to build out its Wildfire malware analysis sandbox, adding new file types and URL analysis to the subscription-based advanced threat defense service. In an interview with CRN, Palo Alto Networks global channel chief Ron Myers said the company was ensuring that partners are getting the same training and enablement programs as the vendor’s own sales and field teams.

Myers said the company has added new resources to drive accountability and productivity with its global network of distributors and is continuing to make significant investments in tools that help partners manage their business with Palo Alto Networks. A new pricing quotation system ties into back-end systems and eliminates previous processes that were redundant, Myers said. The company is focusing on sales enablement to support best-of-breed partners, he said.

’The goal is to enable partners beyond post-technical expertise,’ Myers said. ’We’ve told our partners that whatever we have to support our own personnel, sales marketing or engineering teams, we are going to make available to our partners. A lot of companies may make that claim, but we are following through and making it happen.’

The company is inviting partners to attend an orientation program called Power Base Camp where they get full exposure to Palo Alto Networks staff, including senior executives and an opportunity to see the company’s product road map and go-to-market strategy. Palo Alto Networks is also holding a global systems engineering summit in Denver to focus on competitive positioning, according to Myers. Forty to 50 partner sales engineers will be invited to attend the training, which helps valued partners align with Palo Alto Networks’ cadre of field engineering teams. Tech Wave events, which combine training and product awareness, will again be held globally this year.