Aerohive Networks Channel Chief On 'Huge Progress' And Growth Through Dell Networking Partnership

Aerohive's 'Steady Course'

Aerohive Networks is seeing "huge progress" in its Dell networking partnership with a "great trajectory" path ahead, said Aerohive's channel chief, Michael O'Brien.

"You'll continue to see Aerohive invest in that relationship, and I believe that's mutual from the Dell folks," said O'Brien, vice president of global channel sales, in an interview with CRN.

With market uncertainty lingering in the networking industry, Aerohive is one of the few vendors who has held a steady course, which O'Brien said has benefited the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based wireless specialist and its channel community. "Channel partners look at what going on in our competitors, look at what's going on at Aerohive and say, 'That ship has been on a steady course for awhile,'" he said.

CRN talks to O'Brien about the progress of its Dell partnership, Aerohive's services push in 2017 and his channel vision.

Dell is trying to make a big networking push this year. So where does your networking partnership with Dell stand today?

We continue to see huge progress with the Dell relationship. We just appointed a vice president to now run that division, Brice Layton [vice president of strategic alliances], so we are continuing investing in the Dell relationship. They've been a supporter and a promoter of Aerohive since they decided to add us into the mix. They did that in response to the Aruba [Networks] acquisition by HPE.

Is Aerohive seeing any sales growth because of your Dell partnership?

We've seen growth and we see that globally. Our European business and Asia business have grown substantially over the last three quarters. We really used the first quarter of last year to put some procedures in place, streamline the business relationship between Aerohive and Dell. … We have great trajectory with them. This quarter we added a vice president on top of that to help us drive the executive relationships. You'll continue to see Aerohive invest in that relationship, and I believe that's mutual from the Dell folks.

How big of a benefit is this Dell partnership for Aerohive regarding the channel and customers?

As they make a push into networking, we're front and center with their products and front and center with what their proposition to their customer is. For wired and wireless, it's very important that you can buy that offer from the same folks, but with our integration of our HiveManager [network management] into Dell's N-Series switches and for a Dell rep to be able to sell a platform of wired and wireless offerings that can be managed from a single pane of glass – it's really important. And it resonates with their customers and, most importantly, it resonates with their partner community.

Are the Dell sales going through direct or indirect channels?

Most of the sales we see with Dell go through one of their channel partners.

Dell has really been a great partner of ours and we're resonating with partners.

With Avaya filing for bankruptcy, and other competitors like Brocade-Ruckus in flux, does this market uncertainty benefit Aerohive?

There's a ton of uncertainly and that uncertainty is giving us an opportunity to have conversations with partners.

Partners are very confused on what's going on in the marketplace today and that uncertainty is causing them to have conversations with multiple vendors to understand the marketplace, the technology and what the options are. We're having a great uptick in the acceptance of our platform and the acknowledgment of what we're doing, which is why we think our managed services offering is very timely.

What are some of the big changes you've made to your partner program that the channel needs to know?

The biggest thing we've done is we have made some changes to our discounting structure with our partners to help them get closer to real street pricing. We're meticulously focused right now on streamlining the inside business to help partners be more efficient. What we mean by that is, cleaner and simpler deal registration rules and regulations. Cleaner and simpler discounting, and consistent discounting. Helping partners be able to conduct business through our distributor without our interaction on every deal, and a lot of it comes down the back office. So how do you streamline the back office? How do you make the machine move quicker or how do we increase the velocity in which a partner can configure, order and bring to quote – that's what we have worked on.

What's your channel strategy for Aerohive partners in 2017?

We recognized a long time ago the need for the channel to move to a services model. In everything that we're doing -- whether it's around our [Aerohive] Connect offering, our MSP offering, our direction around [Aerohive] Insights which is our API integration model – everything we built now is around how to bring a product and a service opportunity to the channel.

How do we give partners the opportunities to grow services is what we're investing in.

Why such a big partner services-enablement investment?

You can't just go to the channel anymore and say, 'Hey, I need you to sell another product of mine.' They have too many options out in the marketplace. But if I can come in with a business proposition and say, 'This product is coupled with these services, which means value-add opportunities on top of the product set, and you've got an opportunity as a partner to make a business, to grow a business, to open up a new line of business' -- that's where the stickiness opportunity is and the value of the relationship is for our partners.

Will this services-led model shift your partner strategy?

We just announced our first Aerohive Service Authorized partner. You're going to see much more of that as a focus for us in 2017 – helping partners open up services lines around a wireless platform.

We're always going to be looking at this from a standpoint of, 'How do we incentivize partners to grow with us and how do we do that through a services model?'

Other than services, what's coming down Aerohive's pipeline?

You'll see us build and put some interesting incentives in the marketplace as we move forward with our Connect strategy and the streamlining of our channel program.

Connect is an example of how we're trying to grow the portfolio of solutions for our partners. They're a very aggressively priced, all-in-one solution. It's a great starting point for organizations that are really cost-conscious or for smaller customers.