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Versa Networks rolls out more formal channel approach

Global partner programme replaces an ad-hoc approach and comes at a time when both SASE and SD-WAN are surfing a wave of demand

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered many changes across the world, but a couple of things it has not stopped is the hiring of channel talent and the development and introduction of fresh partner programmes.

There have been numerous examples of both in the last 10 months and John Atchison, head of global channel marketing at Versa Networks, is another. He has been at the firm for six months and has used that time to help bring an enhanced partner programme to fruition.

The SASE (secure access service edge) and SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network) specialist has launched its first formal global offering – the ACE (Accelerate, Captivate, Engage) Partner Programme – with the focus on rewarding those in the channel that get certified around its key technologies.

“I was specifically hired to lead global partner marketing, and part of my role is to drive the global strategy on our global expansion,” said Atchison. “We did close to 100% of our business, the channels. So when I was hired, my first priority was let’s create a global channel programme because we didn’t necessarily have a formalised programme.”

The programme was put together using partner feedback and also acknowledging that the world has changed quite dramatically in the past year.

“Out there in the market, the global demand for secure SD-WAN and SASE has really accelerated,” he said, adding that the forecasts show 30% of customers are implementing SASE now and that will rise to 60% by 2023.

SD-WAN also continues to grow, so the mixture of these two main product lines means there will be growth there for partners, said Atchison. “They’re looking to partner with somebody that’s going to have a formalised channel programme that provides training, competencies and, more importantly, helps them to differentiate themselves.”

The programme also comes at a time when the networking and security worlds are colliding and partners across both disciplines are looking to increase their skills.

“What we’re seeing is that more than half of the partners today are either on their way to becoming more specialised, whether it’s in security and others are specialising in networking,” he said.

Customers were also driving those changes, said Atchison, adding that many of the RFPs Versa was seeing from customers were calling for the convergence of networking and security solutions.

“If you look at Covid-19, what has accelerated is the need to secure applications, the need for applications to be have better quality and the need to be able to make sure that all the applications that are going through the network that are in the cloud, deliver the best service,” he said.

The expectation at Versa is that the formal global channel programme, with its rewards and support, will attract more partners into the fold and Atchison is keeping the door open for more entrants.  

“We have very aggressive goals this year and we believe the channel programme is going to help us lay the groundwork and the foundation for what we do. So, that is going to enable us to scale, as a company, and leverage our ecosystem to go out there and recruit more partners,” he said.

“For us, 2021 is going to be the year of global expansion through our channel ecosystem. We have very aggressive roll-around goals for this year. We are very channel focused and we need our channel partners to help us continue our growth and for our partners to deliver a unique differentiated customer value in the market through our technology.”

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