CRN Exclusive: F5 Exec On New AWS Partnership, Public Cloud Offensive, Subscription Incentives For Partners

Helfer On The Record

F5 Networks is underatking an aggressive public cloud offensive with help from Amazon Web Services. F5 is one of the few vendors selected to join AWS Marketplace's new Channel Opportunity Registration Program (CORE), enabling partners to drive profitability in public cloud, according to David Helfer, senior vice president of worldwide partners and cloud sales for Seattle-based F5.

"Now partners can go to their enterprise or service provider customers and say, 'I can help you move your workload in a private environment or in a public environment like with AWS or Azure.' However, they are now incented not just from F5 … they're being incented by AWS to build that skill set to drive consulting services as well as on migrating a workload in a public cloud environment," said Helfer in an interview with CRN.

Helfer talks to CRN about F5's AWS relationship, public cloud strategy and new subscription incentives for the channel.

Explain your new partnership with AWS.

We are one of the very few partners of AWS that was selected to participate in the AWS Channel Opportunity Registration Program. That's pretty exciting for us because AWS was hyper-selective of who they would put in their incentive program with their partners on the AWS Channel Opportunity Registration.

If you're an F5 partner, you can go on the AWS Marketplace and register an opportunity that you're finding in CORE with AWS. But it also allows those AWS partners that haven't yet become an F5 partner to also register an opportunity. So it gives us the ability to recruit some of those born-in-the-cloud, cloud migration partners because when F5 sits on their marketplace, they want to be able to incent partners to sell F5 and help customers secure their workloads and migration of workloads in a faster way.

So what's the benefit here for F5 partners?

F5 partners have the ability to build professional services practices based on F5 and the migration of workloads. What this does is allows our partners to now take that skill set that they already have, and build up professional services in consulting engagements for migration of the workloads in a public cloud environment. Many partners have spent 10-plus years in private environments. That same skill set can now be leveraged and the opportunities for partners open up immensely. It's a massive opportunity. Now partners can go to their enterprise or service provider customers and say, 'I can help you move your workload in a private environment or in a public environment like with AWS or Azure.' However, they are now incented not just from F5 – because we have incentives that we push out to our partners – they're being incented by AWS to build that skill set to drive consulting services as well on migrating a workload in a public cloud environment. … We also have obtained AWS security competency.

Talk about earning AWS security competency.

We earned our security competency in AWS for our WAF [Web Application Firewall]. That's a huge undertaking. We are one of the only non-pure-play security companies that achieved this certification from AWS. It's a very rigorous process by AWS that has to do with technical proficiency, customer success and customer buy-in. This gives the customers confidence in our WAF solution in security. So when they deploy their migration of workloads and their instances, they can secure that with F5 in our WAF auto-scaling.

You're launching new subscription incentives for partners. What should partners know?

We are offered now in a subscription service. We have built out a cloud specialist organization within my worldwide partner organization. One of the new incentives just this week for partners is the F5 Subscription Incentive. This incentive, for the first time, is offering subscription for customers on VE [virtual edition] licenses. This is a VE license subscription. Think of F5 in a virtual edition where you don't have to buy hardware every time you want to use F5, you can buy a VE.

Can you give me a use case for this subscription incentive?

You can go to a customer and provide professional services and services on the migration of a workload. You don't have to sell them hardware in this instance. You can sell them the VE subscription and they can use that VE in a private environment. The next month, they can use that same VE in AWS or that VE in Azure if they want to. It's a portable VE for any environment that they want to use.

How does it help the channel?

The nice thing about that for an F5 partner is they can feel comfortable that they can build and consult on the migration of a workload and it can be used in multiple environments to have investment protection for the customer. While at the same time, the benefit for a partner is we're providing rebates and incentives for VE subscription licensing. So it's a perfect environment for those that are helping the transition of enterprise customers to cloud environments.

So why should partners be pumped about F5's public could offensive?

If I was an F5 partner looking at this, I'd be saying, 'F5 is incenting me on some subscription incentives [and] now I can also be incented by AWS on their marketplace.' This is interesting because no matter what environment our partners are asking to consult on, they can do it on F5 and be heavily incented and rewarded for continuing to build those practices. They can do that knowing that F5 has the security competency at AWS.

Why did F5 combine its partner and cloud sales organization?

We do that because we believe that partners and anything we do with cloud sales go hand in hand. We are with our long-standing partners as well as recruiting cloud-enablement and cloud-migration partners. We are now on all major public cloud platforms. We have cloud solution templates on AWS and Azure, which really reduces the complexity of the migration of workloads. We have WAF on Azure. We're also delivering that through on our new iSeries.

What is your goal for 2018?

What you are going to see from us is our continued doubling down on both public and private cloud -- all underpinning security. We are increasing work on new categories of partners who are born in the cloud, managed service providers.

What we want our partners and customers to realize is that when you're making that migration, you can do it securely in a virtual environment with F5 and great underpinnings of partnerships like Equinix. So if they're sitting in Equinix in an environment going into a multi-cloud scenario, they know they have investment protection to go do that with F5 and our partners have great opportunities for services and professional services and consulting. F5 is fully all in with partners in helping customers achieve that.