‘A New Dawn’: SonicWall Revamps Partner Program To Accelerate Growth, Activate MSPs

The redesigned SecureFirst Partner Program is aimed at boosting flexibility and profitability for all channel partners, Global Channel Chief Michelle Ragusa-McBain tells CRN.


SonicWall unveiled an overhauled channel program Tuesday that brings a major focus on enabling MSPs and MSSPs to work with the company, while introducing a range of improvements aimed at driving accelerated growth with all partners, according to SonicWall Global Channel Chief Michelle Ragusa-McBain.

The company’s redesigned SecureFirst Partner Program takes into account a massive quantity of feedback provided by partners and includes significant enhancements to profitability and flexibility, said Ragusa-McBain, who also serves as a vice president at the Milpitas, Calif.-based cybersecurity vendor.

[Related: SonicWall Promotes Michelle Ragusa-McBain To Global Channel Chief]

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The company’s goal is that its new channel program — the biggest update to the SonicWall program in seven years — will resonate strongly with existing partners while also generating interest among those who don’t work with the company right now, she said.

“We’re not the SonicWall of yesteryear,” Ragusa-McBain said in an interview with CRN. “This is a new dawn for our partners, new and future.”

Previously a 15-year veteran of Cisco, Ragusa-McBain joined SonicWall as North America channel chief in May, and in August was promoted to head the company’s global partner organization, which serves more than 17,000 partners globally.

MSP Focus

With a track record of boosting engagement and support for MSPs at Cisco, Ragusa-McBain has now set out to bring more providers of managed services into the fold at SonicWall — a three-decade-old security vendor that has at this point expanded well beyond its roots in network security.

“There’s an incredible product portfolio that we already have for MSPs,” Ragusa-McBain said.

“Most people probably know us for firewalls. But from Capture Client [endpoint security] — which we layer on with extra security from SentinelOne — and all across those layers of on-prem, cloud and hybrid cloud, we have the end-to-end security solution for managed service providers,” she said. “And now, we have the program to help them reach new levels of success with us.”

Crucial updates for MSPs and MSSPs in the new SecureFirst Partner Program include the introduction of a monthly consumption and billing model, in contrast to previous requirements for commitments of one to three years for procuring product licenses.

That offers the ability for providers of managed services to add or remove devices depending on the changing needs of their customers, Ragusa-McBain noted.

For MSPs, SonicWall now recognizes that “their needs are very different than a traditional value added reseller,” Ragusa-McBain said.

Partner Perspective

At Sourcepass, an East Northport, N.Y.-based MSP, the availability of monthly licensing commitments from SonicWall is a huge boost, according to Roli Points, co-founder and vice president of partnerships at the company.

Previously, Sourcepass would procure licenses and equipment from SonicWall upfront and “wrap that into a managed service that we would provide to our customers,” Points told CRN. “But we were locked in for a period of time, based on the licensing model.

The new model from SonicWall “allows us to care for our clients that are looking for flexibility — they’re not looking for a long term engagement on the get-go, perhaps their business model is changing,” she said. “That flexibility is very important today from our customer base.”

Sourcepass has previously provided input to SonicWall that a monthly procurement option is a priority to its customers, and “it’s great that SonicWall is listening to that feedback and planning to roll out a program that allows us to give flexibility to the customer,” Points said.

The flexibility around consumption and billing for licenses is also available to all partners across the SonicWall partner program, the company said. Annual licenses will still be available and will be offered at a discounted rate from monthly commitments, according to SonicWall.

Profitability, MDF

In another major update, SonicWall has lowered the threshold for revenue or recurring revenue that partners must hit to earn a rebate across the SecureFirst program’s tiers by between 25 and 50 percent, Ragusa-McBain said. At the top platinum tier, the revenue threshold has been lowered by 50 percent, she said.

This creates a big opportunity for partners to move up to higher tiers, which come with a number of added benefits, according to Ragusa-McBain. In fact, many partners are now being promoted to higher tiers — including 100 silver partners being moved up to gold and 9 percent of gold partners being promoted to platinum, she said.

“At the top level, you’re going to get the most rebates, the most MDF (market development funds) and the greatest discount,” Ragusa-McBain said. “The North Star is we want all of our partners, new and future, to be able to reach the highest levels of partnership with us. And we want to make it attractive for them to get there.”

In terms of MDF, SonicWall is also introducing an enhanced system where partners will automatically accrue the funds based on their revenue or recurring revenue levels — in contrast to the previous system of proposal-based MDF, she said.

Depending on the partner’s tier, they’ll receive 1 to 3 percent of their revenue as MDF, which represents a “significant investment” for SonicWall, Ragusa-McBain said.

SonicWall will still welcome partners to submit proposals for MDF opportunities as well, she noted.

Other New Benefits

In terms of support, SonicWall is now making Tier 2 premium support — which had previously only been available as a paid option — available as a complementary benefit to partners in the top platinum tier, according to Ragusa-McBain.

Additionally, for all partners, the company has revamped its SonicWall University training program in connection with the new SecureFirst launch, she said.

The new SonicWall University will include a much greater emphasis on “journey mapping,” Ragusa-McBain said.

What that means is that for partners, “whatever age or stage — or whatever industry or vertical that you’re specializing in — we’re going to make sure that we’re curating the right content, webinars and trainings to really help drive our partner success,” she said.

The retooled SecureFirst Partner Program will be available as of today for new partners in North America. For existing partners and those outside North America, the program will be rolled out starting Feb. 1, 2024, to give partners a chance to plan for the transition, Ragusa-McBain said.

Ultimately, SonicWall sees the launch of the new program as an opportunity to not only improve engagement with its sizable existing base of partners, but also to re-connect with one-time partners, she said.

In that regard, Ragusa-McBain said she had a special message for former SonicWall partners in the channel community: “Those who maybe used to work with us, but haven’t in a while, we want you to consider coming back. We want to help incent and motivate and drive your business.”