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Riverbed refocuses on its roots

Vendor returns to the core business that made its reputation, with partners being encouraged to embrace performance and visibility strategy

Riverbed is going back to its roots in network performance and visibility and is actively engaging with partners and customers to make sure that message gets across.

The vendor is talking to channel members in the UK and later this week in Europe, as part of efforts by senior executives to get in front of important stakeholders in the ecosystem and inform them of the direction the firm is now heading in.

Bridget Bisnette, senior vice-president global channels sales, programmes and operations at Riverbed, is one of the executives who have been hitting the road and the message she has for distributors and resellers is a candid one.

“We really feel, as a corporation, that we took our eye off the ball, not so much that the market was necessarily dropping, but we stopped focusing on our core business with some other product lines that we had,” she said. “We are trying to be totally transparent. It would be silly for us to show up in front of our partners and our customers [and not be candid], because they notice.”

Bisnette added: “We are focused as a visibility and performance company for networks and applications. So that’s kind of our line and this is kind of going back to our roots as a company, as a corporation.”

That refocusing is being driven by a renewed senior management team that has been in-post for just a few months. Back in October, the firm appointed former Mitel boss Rich McBee as president and CEO. A month earlier, the vendor promoted Dan Smoot to COO. That leadership team has been driving the refocused strategy.

Riverbed is now working around a four-pronged approach – performance, software-as-a-service (SaaS) acceleration, network performance management (NPM) and software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN).

“We are in the process of realigning our efforts and our resources on our new strategy,” said Bisnette, adding that the rest of the year would be dedicated to getting the message out to the channel and customers. “We have over 300 million devices around the world and a very solid base there that we need to get refocused on.”

The vendor is telling partners that there is a significant opportunity out in the market right now and the trends are all moving in the direction to keep that growing.

“There’s a huge opportunity [worth millions] and refresh in just the next 90 days,” said Bisnette. “The marketplace was already moving to a distributed workforce and people being mobile. Now even the infrastructure comm employees – people that traditionally are close to the datacentre – are working from the office all the time.

“So, those two things are really making the network and application performance much more complicated for the customer. So we really feel that our message about being a visibility and performance company is really relevant today, to the customers. Now, what does that mean for our partners? Well, that means that our partners need to refocus on these areas, just like us.”

Bisnette admits that in SD-WAN, the business became too focused on a market that is not yet generating the revenues it would have liked to see.

“What we realised is there’s a whole lot of talk about what is happening out there, but there are not a lot of customers buying,” she said.

Sales cycles are longer because SD-WAN is often part of a larger digital transformation conversation. The vendor remains committed to the technology and the market and hopes it now is taking the right approach.

Along with SD-WAN, the business also had some work to do to recalibrate the balance after its 2016 acquisition of application monitoring specialist Aternity, but that is now operating as a separate division and not distracting from the core business.

“There’s SD-WAN and then there is Aternity, so those were somewhat distracting for us in the marketplace,” said Bisnette. “As a company, we decided let’s focus on what we’ve done, so we’ve now split the Aternity business from the Riverbed business and we are already seeing momentum on account of that, especially in Europe.

“I can tell you that in the five months since Rich and Dan came on board, and the refocus, the feedback from our partners, from our customers has been enormous and they are telling us ‘that’s what you do, you are a performance and visibility company’. So there has been a tremendous amount of good feedback from our ecosystem on that.”

Resellers need not be concerned that words like “refocus” and “strategy” might translate into wholesale changes in the way the vendor interacts with its partners. Riverbed introduced the Rise programme two years ago and made sure it had the flexibility to make adjustments.

“We designed it with flexibility so that we have the ability, not even every year but if we wanted to, inside of it, with the incentives to modify those based on the needs of the partner or the needs of the company,” said Bisnette. “So, those have been refreshed this year. And we’ve added a significant new category component, and that’s enablement for our partners.

“And with these four pillars, it is critical that we deliver to the partners and they feel confident to have a conversation with the customer.”

The company has no particular plans to widen the channel base, although it is keeping a close eye on the MSP market to make sure it can reach out to those looking to add performance and visibility products to their services mix.

“We are even more valuable to them because now they can enhance those offerings by adding these feature sets,” said Bisnette.

The other takeaway for the channel is that with Bisnette working alongside the CEO and COO, there is clearly a commitment from the firm’s leadership to partners.

“We do 95% of our revenue through partners and that’s not changing anytime soon,” she said. “As a matter of fact, as we grow, so will our partners’ business and the wallet share that they have with us. I think certainly with the new leadership here at Riverbed, those partners become even more important to us as our go-to-market.”

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