CRN Exclusive: Palo Alto Networks Expands NextWave Partner Program With New Public Cloud Specialization

When it comes to the public cloud, Palo Alto Networks said it is doubling down with partners.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based security vendor has launched the pilot for a new Public Cloud Specialization, as part of its NextWave Partner Program.

Ron Myers, senior vice president of worldwide channels, said the specialization serves three tiers of partners: traditional channel relationships around bring-your-own-license; born in the cloud partners looking to resell security or go to market with a services delivery model around the cloud; and an integrated deal registration system through the AWS Marketplace. Palo Alto Networks also works with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

[Related: Palo Alto Networks CEO: We Are Now Bigger Than Check Point, Fast Approaching Size Of Cisco's Security Business]

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"Serving customers who elect to migrate into the public cloud is nothing new within Palo Alto Networks … What we needed to do was take a step back and devise a program and enablement opportunities that would help partners become extremely confident and competent in delivering and serving to the cloud," Myers said of the new specialization.

The public cloud specialization pilot is the second specialization for partners from Palo Alto Networks, adding to a NextWave Traps Specialization the company launched around endpoint security in April 2016. The company has since seen "phenomenal" growth in the number of partners specializing around Traps.

The specialization is designed to help partners address the accelerating market for public cloud, as well as alleviate some of their concerns about the new model and what it means for margins, said Dean Darwin, Palo Alto's senior vice president of sales and channel strategy. Darwin said enterprise customers are moving to the cloud at faster rates, but having a partner to understand the shared security model is vital if they want to make a move securely. However, he said many partners don't know where to start when it comes to addressing that opportunity.

"For the channel, what is really important is that the opportunity is fast. It is a massive inflection point that we're at right now. It's not a headwind. It's not a threat. If you embrace it, I think it has a tremendous opportunity as a tailwind," Darwin said. "There is a dramatic need for enterprise-class security."

Jeff Aden, co-founder and executive vice president of strategic business development and marketing at 2nd Watch, a Seattle-based AWS partner, said his company announced a partnership with Palo Alto Networks to join the specialization about a month ago. He said he views the partnership as "very synergistic and complementary," bringing together 2nd Watch's expertise around AWS and Palo Alto Networks' expertise around security.

Aden said the launch of the specialization pilot is a sign that Palo Alto Networks is all-in on the public cloud. He said he sees the launch as a sign the company is looking to bring its "tested and trusted" reputation with the enterprise into the public cloud market.

"They are taking public cloud very seriously and not straddling the fence. That's something we look for," Aden said. "I think Palo Alto Networks, from my perception, is looking to be a leader in the public cloud security space. They have a lot of size and technology and experience in this with the enterprise."

Aden said that commitment by Palo Alto Networks is important, especially as more customers look to move to the public cloud "security is at the forefront of people's thoughts." He said he expects that demand to only accelerate as news of data breaches continues to accelerate.

"We don't see that [security] is going to diminish in the future," Aden said.

Darwin said some of the hesitations partners have around the public cloud center around the public cloud marketplaces, which some partners see as a way they can lose deals if customers go directly to the marketplace. He said Palo Alto Networks has "cracked the code" with its new specialization, which includes the new integrated deal registration systems with AWS that partners will be rewarded for all Palo Alto Networks sales. He said Palo Alto Networks has also introduced a frictionless licensing model, which changes the licensing model around the public cloud, so partners avoid their fear of smaller deals.

Darwin said there is a significant opportunity for partners who can adapt to the new public cloud model around security. He said customers are looking for "trusted advisors for security around the move to public cloud." Darwin said the services opportunity is "massive" for partners who can help customers navigate the move to the public cloud in a secure way.

Myers said the launch fits into a growing strategy at Palo Alto Networks to focus on public cloud security, a strategy that started to get underway when Darwin joined the company around a year ago. Myers said Palo Alto Networks is now executing on that plan with the new specialization. Myers said the pilot of the specialization is showing early success, with "good traction."

"This is a critical part of our strategy, and we expect huge growth," Myers said.