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Aqua Security Snags Palo Alto Networks’ Jeannette Lee Heung

Michael Novinson

‘Because we‘re at the very beginning of this evolution [to cloud], customers are looking for a partner that has a consultative capability, and SIs are it,’ says Jeannette Lee Heung, Aqua Security’s new channel chief.

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Aqua Security has brought on Palo Alto Networks leader Jeannette Lee Heung as global channel chief to deepen the company’s relationships with global systems integrators.

The Boston-based cloud security vendor has tasked Lee Heung with using the company’s assessment health checks and cloud vulnerability scanning capabilities to create strategic service offerings for large SIs. Aqua Security is looking to go from having just one SI channel partner today to making SIs and cloud providers its predominant route to market, according to Chief Revenue Officer Chris Smith.

“Because we’re at the very beginning of this evolution [to cloud], customers are looking for a partner that has a consultative capability, and SIs are it,” Lee Heung told CRN exclusively. “The SIs are the ones that are really going to meet us at the beginning of this of this evolution. They’re coming to us asking for help.”

[Related: Aqua Security Buys Software Supply Chain Security Firm Argon]

Lee Heung started Monday as Aqua Security’s senior director of global channel and alliances, where she’ll report into Smith, oversee a 15-person channel organization as well as 37 signed channel partners who are primarily VARs. She previously spent four years at NetApp and nearly six years at Palo Alto Networks, culminating in a role as director of Palo Alto Networks’ Prisma Cloud global ecosystems.

“She has a very good understanding of the system integrators and the cloud providers,” Smith told CRN. “There are a lot of people in her role that know value added resellers or they know SIs or they know the cloud providers. What I really needed was somebody with a strategic vision that would be able to create a template that was the overarching template for all three of those.”

Aqua Security’s SI coverage today is limited to IBM, but Lee Heung said a few large global SIs have reached out to the company looking for support. Smith said Aqua’s runtime protection provides a deep understanding of known good and known bad in the market, allowing Aqua to determine whether or not customers were susceptible to the log4j vulnerability sooner than the rest of the market, Smith said.

Smith said Aqua plans to work with the top three-to-five global SIs on a program that provides them with licenses to scan customer’s cloud environments upfront as either a free or a paid service. The company conducts 86 percent of its business through the channel today and has historically focused on end users with more than $1 billion of annual sales, according to Smith.

From a metrics standpoint, Smith said Aqua plans to track the number of health checks SIs are conducting, the conversion of health checks into the purchase of Aqua technology, the number of opportunities generated by cloud providers, and customer stickiness. Aqua would like to get from a customer retention rate of 123 percent today to a rate of more than 130 percent through further upsell.

“Customers enjoy and appreciate working with Aqua, and partners feel very much the same way,” Lee Heung told CRN. “Aqua is I think the head of the bunch with what their vision is, where they’re going and also with the customer response and partner response.”

Aqua would benefit from increasing its channel support so that best practices from some of its largest and more longstanding customers are leveraged across the rest of the company’s salesforce, said Mark Butler, advisory CISO at Irvine, Calif.-based Trace3, No. 41 on the 2021 CRN Solution Provider 500. Real world perspectives on why Aqua was bought on how partners enabled the technology would be helpful.

Butler hopes the hire of Lee Heung will strengthen Aqua’s channel presence and take the company’s channel support from good to excellent. Specifically, he expects Lee Heung will help Aqua bolster and refine its messaging around what it means to be cloud-native and what build-to-runtime support looks like from a security capabilities perspective.

“I think it’s going to be a big uplift. She’s used to dealing at Palo’s scale, and Prisma is a great platform as well,” Butler said. “I think she’ll be able to ramp up what Aqua can deliver across the channel.”

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