Cloudflare ‘Rapidly Scaling’ With MSSP Partners Around SASE: Channel Chief

The company is looking to expand the use of its SASE platform with the help of a ‘much wider swath of MSSPs,’ Cloudflare Channel Chief Matt Harrell tells CRN.


Cloudflare is looking to ramp up its work with MSSP partners around its secure access service edge (SASE) and zero trust security offerings after implementing updates across provisioning, management and pricing that are key for service providers, according to Cloudflare’s channel chief.

The company’s SASE platform, Cloudflare One, also provides a differentiated opportunity to partners that are looking to bring high-performance security services to their customers leveraging the vendor’s global network, said Matt Harrell, global head of channels and alliances at San Frncisco-based Cloudflare.

Ultimately, “around Cloudflare One, we’re ready” for MSSPs, Harrell said in an interview with CRN. “The doors are open, and we’re in the process of engaging with MSSPs and on-boarding them into our program.”

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[Related: Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince: Most Zero Trust Security Tools ‘Slow You Down’]

Cloudflare’s move into SASE and zero trust security in recent years has opened up significant new opportunities for working with channel partners, executives said. The company expects an increasing portion of its revenue to be driven by the channel thanks to its newer product lines, Cloudflare co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince told CRN recently.

“For a long time, I think we had a willingness to partner but we didn’t have the right products to be a good partner,” Prince said. “I think that all changed both with us going into the zero trust space and with us going into the developer services space. … Today I think we’re perfectly positioned to be a partner.”

Cloudflare’s global network remains its core differentiator when it comes to delivering SASE and zero trust-related security services, according to the company—just as it has been for more than a decade in areas such as web content delivery and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation.

The Cloudflare network covers 300 cities across more than 100 countries, and this coverage breadth enables the company to offer stronger performance on zero trust security services than competitors, most of which don’t run on their own networks, according to executives.

Cloudflare’s network is “always going to give us a huge competitive advantage,” Harrell said.

In addition to enabling high-performance delivery of security services, running its own network “allows us to innovate really rapidly and bring new products to market quickly—which means that we’re always going to out-innovate the competition,” he said. “And I think that’s going to give our partners the confidence that their customers are always going to have the latest and greatest technology.”

Scaling With MSSPs

The company launched its Cloudflare One Partner Program in mid-2022, but a major expansion of MSSP partnerships is only possible now thanks to work the company has done over the past three months, Harrell noted.

The work has involved updating its products to enable simplified provisioning and management of customer environments using Cloudflare’s technology, he said. With that completed, “we believe we have a product that can scale” with MSSPs, Harrell said.

The other major component has been around developing consumption-based pricing for the Cloudflare One platform that’s easy for MSSPs to understand, he said, so “they can move fast in terms of turning on and provisioning, and they get billed based on actual consumption.”

In addition, Cloudflare has built out a “very robust” on-boarding process for MSSPs that includes training and enablement around the company’s products, Harrell said. And crucially, “I think we’ve got really strong alignment internally with the right teams ... to ensure that an MSSP is fully qualified and authorized to support the customers in the way they need to be supported,” he said.

While Cloudflare currently works with “dozens” of MSSPs, “we’re in the process now of rapidly scaling that to a much larger audience,” Harrell said. “The work we’ve been doing over the last three months makes us confident that we can now scale the program across a much wider swath of MSSPs.”

Network Transformation

One early MSSP partner is Kyndryl, No. 8 on CRN’s Solution Provider 500 for 2023, which officially kicked off its partnership with Cloudflare in May.

New York-based Kyndryl—which has been growing its partner ranks since spinning out of IBM in 2021—is finding that Cloudflare’s high-performance global network offers a big advantage to customers, said Chris McReynolds, vice president for global offering management, edge compute and network at Kyndryl.

In terms of zero trust security, “when you’re making those decisions from endpoints on whether they’re allowed to access a certain application, the closer you can make that to the end user, the better it performs from a user perspective,” McReynolds told CRN.

The fact that Cloudflare’s network is so “mature” from years of operating services such as web content delivery and DDoS mitigation is also a major plus, he said. This is particularly the case for partners like Kyndryl that are working to take dated network architectures and transform them into a more secure, modern architecture on behalf of customers, McReynolds said.

Cloudflare’s experience of running a high-scale network for so long means the company “can control how the traffic flows very well,” he said. “As a company that’s doing [network] transformation for the customers, and then managing that environment on an ongoing basis, it gives us the ability to provide a very good experience for our customers.”

In speaking with CRN recently, Prince said that optimizing Cloudflare’s engagement with partners and enabling the channel to bring the company’s SASE platform to customers is a major focus for him.

Today, “where I’m spending a lot more time is with our partners making sure that we’ve got a robust partner program, making sure that we’re supporting that channel well, making sure that we’ve got clear pricing and that we’ve got clear ways of working with various partners around the world,” he said.

Service Opportunities

Looking ahead, other key partner initiatives for Cloudflare will include expanding the specializations that are available to partners, one of which will be around managed services, Harrell said.

Enabling more partners to deliver professional services is another priority, he added.

“We don’t have a large professional services organization. And we believe that the route to market for services is going to be through our partners,” Harrell said.

All in all, “we’ve had elements of an MSSP program, we have an authorized service delivery program, we’ve got a general program,” he said. Going forward, “we want to bring this together under one umbrella as a framework to make it simpler and easier for partners to navigate.”