11 Ways Palo Alto Networks Is Changing The Game For Partners

The Palo Alto Channel Future

In May, Palo Alto Networks welcomed new Americas channel chief Karl Soderlund to its team. Soderlund, who now serves as vice president, Americas channels, brings years of channel expertise to the role, including channel chief roles at Imperva, Aruba and Avaya. In an interview with CRN at the company's recent Ignite 2017 conference in Vancouver, Soderlund and Ron Myers, senior vice president of worldwide channels, talked about the security vendor's vision when it comes to its partner program, and what Soderlund has planned now that he's on board. Take a look at what the two executives had to say.

Focus On Next-Generation Security Innovators

Last year, Palo Alto Networks began encouraging partners to be what it called "next-generation security innovators," which includes pursuing a platform-based approach, automation, emerging technologies, a mix of revenue, and providing multiple purchasing options for customers. The company's surveys show partners looking to step up in these categories, Myers said, and Palo Alto Networks is working to launch more offerings and support in these areas. Palo Alto Networks is particularly focusing on enabling partners around cloud security, up-leveling their skills in that area, and prepping them for a "massive" refresh cycle around Palo Alto Networks appliances, he said.

New Opportunities For Partners Around Innovation

Palo Alto Networks also is investing in innovation, including a recent update to its PAN-OS to add new features across the entire portfolio and an update to its Traps endpoint security offering, Myers said. Palo Alto Networks also rolled out multiple new offerings at Ignite 2017, including a new Application Framework, GlobalProtect cloud service and venture fund.

Driving Operations

Internally, Soderlund (pictured) said he will focus on helping the Americas channel team drive "better operational excellence." That includes driving more value to partners and alignment between the field sales teams, he said.

More Partner Independence

Both Soderlund and Myers said Palo Alto Networks is putting more emphasis on partner independence going forward. Palo Alto Networks has worked to enable its partners, Myers said, but now is also expecting more out of them. The company will work to do a better job of segmenting what partners and sales reps are responsible for in a sales engagement, according to Myers. Palo Alto Networks wants to enable partners to be more successful independent of direct vendor support, he said, adding that "partner independence and scale is really a key mantra." The next evolution of the partner program will look at both the "contribution partners bring overall" and "at a transaction level" and will reward them for greater partner self-sufficiency, he said.


In April 2016, Palo Alto Networks unveiled the NextWave Traps Specialization, which allowed partners to achieve a designation if they specialize on the company's endpoint security offering. Palo Alto Networks will work to find other ways it can invest in partners to help differentiate them through specializations when they work with sales teams and customers, Soderlund said.

Partner-Led Services

There is a "tremendous opportunity for partner-led services," said Soderlund, who added he will focus on enhancing that "blended-margin" opportunity for partners to take the Palo Alto Networks technology and wrap their own services around it. Myers said he sees a particular opportunity for this around cloud services, where partners can talk to customers about Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure and build a "compelling story" around security with Palo Alto Networks.

"The foundation is there and partners are starting to take advantage," Myers said.

Driving More Value Through Entire Sales Cycle

One of the priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 is to enable partners through the entire sales cycle, Soderlund said. One way the company is doing that is to ensure partners are enabled with full technical competency, which will allow them to drive value through the majority of the sales cycle and differentiate themselves in the market. Palo Alto Networks already has already added 1,500 new PAN Systems Engineers on the pre-sales side to support partners in the past quarter.

Cyber Force Program Investments

Earlier this year, Palo Alto Networks launched its Cyber Force Program, an exclusive partner technical recognition program to give partners industry acknowledgement for their expertise and rewards for activities they perform and deals they close. The company will continue to invest and grow this program, Soderlund said.

Focus On Partners Investing In Palo Alto Networks

Both Soderlund and Myers said Palo Alto Networks is looking to focus its investments on partners that are building their business around the security vendor, rather than a partner carrying a vast line card of competitors. They said they will focus on enabling those partners to make them more successful with the platform.

"As partners start to work with us and as they increase focus and commitment, we will increase focus, commitment and alignment to them. … If they are committed and selling the platform, there is a lot more energy around that," Soderlund said.

Improved Communication With Partners

Palo Alto Networks has been working to improve its communication with partners, according to Myers, a push led by Head Of Global Partner Experience Lang Tibbils. Palo Alto Networks has vastly improved its "communication effectiveness" over the past 18 months through a variety of communication channels, as well as building a better structure and process for partner resource allocation, he said. Soderlund said that is an area that Palo Alto Networks will continue to invest in around its channel.

Helping Partners Battle The Competition

Palo Alto Networks is talking to partners about how to win in competitive situations, Myers said. The company will be training partners specifically on how to beat different competitors – including Cisco Systems, Fortinet and Check Point Software Technologies – in competitive bids, he said.

"We're very aware of what they're trying to do in the security space," Myers said of the competition. "All of our competition is formidable. What we're trying to do is continually assess how and why we're winning against Cisco and, if there are any losses, we do a good job of understanding why. We are enabling our reps and our field teams to help partners with this."