5 Big Changes Coming To Palo Alto Networks’ Partner Program

From unlocking cloud resale and SMB technical support to driving sales enablement and emerging technology specializations, here’s a rundown of key changes to the Palo Alto Networks NextWave Partner Program.


Breaking New Ground

Palo Alto Networks rolled out the most comprehensive update in the history of its NextWave Partner Program Thursday, debuting three specializations and a sales enablement platform as well as opening up the company’s entire Prisma Cloud portfolio for resale and restricting SMB technical support in the United States exclusively to the channel, according to Karl Soderlund (pictured), SVP of worldwide channels.

“This program is literally a representation of the feedback that we’ve collected from partners over the past two years,” Soderlund told CRN exclusively. “This program is going to give partners a greater opportunity for growth, profitability and focus, and we’re expecting great results.”

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The Santa Clara, Calif.-based platform security vendor plans to track the level of partner activity generated by NextWave 3.0 as well as pipeline development, deals closed and bookings, Soderlund said. Specifically, he said Palo Alto Networks plans to monitor the number of partners pursuing the new specializations and taking advantage of training and certifications offered by the company.

Here’s a rundown of the most significant changes to the Palo Alto Networks NextWave Partner Program.

5. Rapid Growth, Investment In MSP Initiatives, Automation

Palo Alto Networks is seeing dramatic growth in its managed services program, Soderlund said, having onboarded 15 MSSPs in the United States and 44 MSSPs globally over the past 90 days. The company now has more than 100 active and engaged partners in its MSP program, Soderlund said, and is currently in the process of putting an additional 50 MSPs into the program right now.

Soderlund said Palo Alto Networks has seen a dramatic uptick in the appetite of its partners to invest in managed services, and the company has responded by investing in continued automation for its program. A lot of Palo Alto Networks’ technology is a really nice fit for managed services, especially as the company has expanded its product portfolio through acquisitions and organic investment, he said.

In addition, Soderlund said managed services offerings have become an increasingly good fit for customers as COVID-19 drives more remote work, resulting in an uptick to both pipeline and results. The theory behind Palo Alto Networks’ managed services has been incredibly strong over the past three years, and the company is at last starting to see results from its vision, according to Soderlund.

4. Debut Of New Enablement Platform To Drive Partner Sales

Partners identified enablement a couple of years ago as the biggest area needing improvement due to an emphasis on white papers and technical enablement at the expense of sales enablement as well as a significant lag in making enablement tools and resources available to the channel after an acquisition, Soderlund said. The company has spent $3.46 billion on 12 acquisitions since the start of 2018.

In response, Soderlund said Palo Alto Networks has rolled out an enablement platform called Amplify to offer more customize training options based on a user’s age and industry experience. Amplify has made more than 1,000 training resources available to partners, including videos, podcasts and white papers, according to Soderlund.

Many of the training paths lead to certifications, Soderlund said, but others are focused on obtaining micro-credentials so that solution providers can quickly digest relevant information before engaging with a new customer. Palo Alto Networks has also emphasized plugging new technology – whether organic or via acquisition – into the Amplify platform immediately so partners can get up to speed.

3. Restrict SMB Technical Support In U.S. To Channel Partners

Palo Alto Networks is making it so that only solution providers are allowed to deliver technical support to the company’s 40,000 SMB customers in the United States, Soderlund said. “We’re really pushing that business to the partners because they’ve earned it,” Soderlund told CRN.

Roughly 10 percent of Palo Alto Networks’ channel partners are delivering support today, and Soderlund said the company hopes to grow that figure with the unveiling of Authorized Support Center (ASC) 2.0. Solution providers wishing to deliver pre-sales consulting, implementation and managed services must meet certain thresholds for headcount, certifications and customer satisfaction reports, Soderlund said.

From a long-term perspective, Soderlund said getting authorized to deliver support and managed services is the most lucrative path for partners on an ongoing basis. As far as one-time engagements are concerned, Soderlund said the highest level of profitability for partners is around deployment and implementation services since it’s a high-need, high-value proposition for customers.

2. New Partner Specializations In SASE, Cloud, XDR/XSOAR

Palo Alto Networks is rolling out specializations around its SASE, cloud, and XDR/XSOAR technology to drive more partner expertise in the company’s high-growth security segments, Soderlund said. Roughly 10 percent of solution providers are expected to obtain specializations out of the gate, Soderlund said, with SASE initially drawing the greatest interest due to the networking background of many partners.

Partners wishing to obtain a specialization must meet requirements around performance, capabilities and enablement, Soderlund said. Specifically, he said they must have: success in selling technology as measured by bookings; sales and technical expertise as demonstrated by experience and pre-sales and post-sales certifications; and taken advantage of best practice assessments and sales lifecycle reviews.

Solution providers who obtain a specialization will receive additional front-end discounts, rebates, focused co-op, early access to enablement resources, and stronger salesforce alignment, Soderlund said. Partners get a 5 percent front-end discount and 5 percent back-end rebate for being specialized, and can stack those on top of a 5 percent discount for signing or referring a new customer, Soderlund said.

1. Prisma Cloud Now Available For Full Resale, Not Just Referrals

Palo Alto Networks is opening up its Prisma Cloud portfolio for full resale globally, Soderlund said, forgoing a contentious referral-only model for certain products such as RedLock cloud threat defense. Making Prisma Cloud available for resale will simplify things from an operational perspective since the channel can register deals, leading to an incremental discount and designation as the partner of record.

Since announcing the news internally, Soderlund said Palo Alto Networks has seen an increase in both registered deals and its sales pipeline for Prisma Cloud. The appetite for Prisma Cloud has been far greater among mid-enterprise and small enterprise customers than the company initially anticipated in 2019, and Soderlund said partners do a fantastic job in covering that segment of the market.

Prisma Cloud had been the biggest piece of the Palo Alto Networks portfolio where channel partners were only allowed to participate on a referral basis, Soderlund said. Incident response services acquired from The Crypsis Group are now the only Palo Alto Networks offering where partners are limited to doing referrals, though Soderlund said large systems integrators can provide services around Crypsis.