CRN Exclusive: SonicWall Names New CEO As It Closes Dell Spinout Deal

SonicWall is officially independent from Dell, the company announced Tuesday, and it has named a new top executive to lead its path forward as standalone network security vendor.

SonicWall announced that long-time security industry and channel veteran Bill Conner will be its CEO. Conner comes to SonicWall from Silent Circle, where he was president and CEO. He has also held CEO roles at Entrust and Nortel Networks.

"I'm really excited and frankly just honored and privileged to come to the new SonicWall … When you’ve been in security and networking as long as I have, it’s a great fit for what's going on in the security world and in the real world," Conner said in an exclusive interview with CRN. "I'm really excited to be able to come in and work with the team and take the next era of this company where we need to go to."

[Related: CRN Exclusive: New SonicWall CEO On Closing The Dell Spinout Deal, Tech Investments And Driving A 100 Percent Channel Sales Model]

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Conner replaces SonicWall General Manager Curtis Hutcheson, who had been in the role since May 2015. Hutcheson said he has not yet decided on his next move.

Julie Neely, president and founder of SonicWall partner Napa Valley Networks, said she is "really excited" to see Conner assume the role of CEO, saying his strong security resume seems to be a good fit for the role.

"He seems like he has the ability to get this job done. The team sounded really excited with him and very complementary of him. He seems like he will do a great job," Neely said.

That being said, Neely said she is "very sad" to see Hutcheson leave his role as general manager, saying he was "fantastic" and she "very much enjoyed working with him. "It will be interesting to see what that change means," Neely said.

The changes come as SonicWall closes its acquisition by Francisco Partners and Elliott Management, as part of the private equity group's acquisition of the Dell Software Group. The acquisition was first announced in June. Other parts of the Dell Software Group, including Quest Software and OneIdentity, will also operate independently.

As CEO, Conner said he will continue SonicWall's investments to grow its technology and drive a 100 percent channel sales model as an independent company. In particular, Conner said SonicWall will invest in expanding its next-generation firewall features, such as Capture, its cloud-based Global Management System (GMS), and its SonicOS hardware operating system.

"I think one of the things we can now get back to being standalone is a faster and quicker innovation cycle … I think we will see that category of SonicWall return to the leadership pace of speed and innovation that we used to be at," Conner said.

SonicWall will also be pursuing a 100 percent channel model after the split, a journey the company has been on for the past nine months, Channel Chief Steve Pataky said. On Tuesday, the company officially launched its standalone SecureFirst Partner Program, which it had previously outlined at its Peak 16 event. Pataky said SonicWall is currently working to migrate all of its partners to the new program, respecting their previous achievements with the company.

"It really is exciting trajectory we've been in on with momentum in channel … Differentiation can come, not just through the technology, but also in the go to market with a 100 percent channel company. That differentiation is also how we work with partners and what they know they can expect from SonicWall. I think we will stay focused on that as well through the transition," Pataky said.

Napa Valley Networks' Neely said she is happy to see the focus on the channel and improving of the support network for partners. She said it seems like SonicWall is looking to return to "the way SonicWall used to be" before its sale to Dell in 2012, which she said would be a good thing for partners.

"I'm really excited for him to be leading the SonicWall group. He has outlined a plan that I'm actually really excited about. It looks like they will get back to making the channel partners really important to the business and giving us a lot of tools and resources to be successful," Neely said.

Patrick Sweeney, SonicWall's vice president of marketing and product management, said the investments in technology and go-to-market are all about getting "back to our roots" at SonicWall. With the closing of the deal, Sweeney said SonicWall can put months of preparation for the spinout behind them, and focus on running the business.

"What a difference a year makes. We are poised and ready to launch ourselves and see the benefits of the changes we've made," Sweeney said.