Extreme integrates Bluetooth and BIPS into AirDefense.

Lynn Haber

October 21, 2020

8 Min Read
Road Map with Markers

Extreme Networks channel partners are getting to know Joe Vitalone at the company’s Virtual Partner Conference 2020. Hired in June as chief revenue officer (CRO), Vitalone oversees Extreme’s global partners.

Just four months into the job at Extreme, Vitalone spent 35 years in sales, marketing, operations and channel at companies such as Polycom, Mitel, Lifesize, ShoreTel and others. In addition to channel oversight, he’s also responsible for global sales and sales operations teams.

Vitalone eagerly shared a channel strategy for the company’s 2021 fiscal year, which began July 1. One topic of particular interest is MSPs, and where they fit in Extreme’s growth strategy, which is all about cloud.

We also learned that Extreme promoted Brenda Richardson, strategic alignment lead, Americas sales and channels, just a couple of weeks ago. She joined the company nine months ago as director, strategic alliances at Verizon. Prior to that, Richardson worked at Cisco for more than 10 years.

The Extreme Networks Virtual Partner Conference 2020, in its second day Wednesday, is seeing record registration and attendance of more than 2,000 channel partners. Compare that to a couple of hundred attendees at a physical event.

Partners drive more than 90% of the company’s revenue.

Product News

Extreme Networks on Wednesday announced it has integrated Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy Intrusion Prevention (BIPS) capability into Extreme AirDefense Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS). This allows network administrators to address threats against Bluetooth and BLE devices. AirDefense (WIPS) combines automated detection, identification, classification, notification and migration capabilities in a single offer.


Extreme Networks’ Perry Correll

“WIPS is about wireless; it not just about Wi-Fi — and that’s important. Even though we’ve got 14 billion Wi-Fi devices, there are about 4 billion BLE devices out there. That’s what this release is focused on,” said Perry Correll, director of product marketing at Extreme Networks.

BLE beacons are easy to deploy, but companies may not know they’re there.

“I want to know what’s happening in my network. If I walk into my favorite coffee shop and there’s a BLE beacon, and on my phone it pops up and says, “it’s pumpkin spice time, get half off,” that’s great. But if I walk in tomorrow and get a message that says, “it’s better next door because someone hacked into the beacon,” it’s a bad thing. Or, if I walk in the following day and it says, “skip the line, order now and put in your credit card number” — not everyone will do it, but a certain percentage of people will. That’s what our new integrated capability is about,” said Correll. “It’s really the next evolution.”

Fifteen years ago, network and security administrators wanted to know about rogue access points (APs). Now they need to know about rogue beacons.

In September, Extreme enhanced ExtremeCloud IQ with new features called “Essentials.” These are four primary enterprise service applications integrated into ExtremeCloud IQ – at no extra cost. The service applications are …

… guest management, location services, IoT management, and WiPs services.

New CRO Takes the Reins

Channel Futures: You’re new to Extreme Networks yet got up to speed quickly and are off and running with programs.

Joe Vitalone: I came on board just as things were heating up with the pandemic. But it was the beginning of the year and it was the start of our sales kickoff meeting. Then we had our customer conference, Extreme Connect 2020, and now our partner conference. So, from that perspective, from my point of view, it was a great time to start.


Extreme Networks’ Joe Vitalone

I was able to learn a lot and have an impact on many key decisions. For example, organizing the company, launching our sales kickoff meeting with our playbooks and then hosting the partner conference. I have a chance to meet a broad audience and go deeper into the partner community.

We’re also able to go deeper and broader in our messaging with partners and customers. Our category [of product] is hot now. Because of COVID-19, we’re seeing some big upticks in verticals such as transportation and education.

CF: Outline the Extreme Networks channel strategy for partners in fiscal year 2021.

JV: There are three channel and sales priorities that we announced at the partner conference.

The first is to protect and migrate our base. Extreme, 25 years old, is a combination of companies now under one great purple umbrella. We’ve brought everything in-house. Now we’re rolling out a sales strategy which is to protect and migrate this incredible base that we have from our generation 2 products to our generation 3 into the cloud and beyond.

The second priority is to expand our partner community. What I found when I got here is an incredible base of partners — over 9,000 around the globe. But we still have cities where we have little market share. We’re looking to our current partners to expand into new cities. We will help them do that through unique funding programs, lead-generation activities, and helping them recruit and hire new people to fill in those holes.

Before we find new partners, we’re going to help our existing partners first. It’s cheaper, it’s easier and it’s more effective for us to do that first. But we are absolutely going to bring on new channels, broader, bigger, global channels in size and scope.

The third priority is this move to the cloud. We’re encouraging our partners to become MSPs. What that means is becoming more than a value-added integrator and making sure they’re taking applications and truly integrating those and moving customers into the cloud.

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

We’re making that possible through our expanded LEAP program. LEAP, our lending enablement and assistance program, is one part financial and another part services. Combined, we make it easy for a customer to pay monthly versus pay all upfront.

What we found with COVID-19 was, this thing hit us around St. Patrick’s Day, budgets had already been big, spending started and now suddenly everybody had to work from home or remotely. It put a major stress on …

… data networking and Wi-Fi access for schools, institutions for commercial businesses, and moms and dads that had to deal with home schooling, aging parents with telemedicine, and so on. We saw a big crush on the network.

Budgets weren’t available, so we came out with a program that got customers to buy monthly. It’s been very successful. Now we’re rolling in labor, other services, extended three-year, five-year-type premier services. We’re seeing a big attach as a result of that program. And it allows our partners to get paid quickly so they don’t have to ring up big credits with distribution.

CF: Why are MSPs important to Extreme?

JV: An MSP to us is a company that takes all of the technologies, integrates them, provides them to an institution, school, commercial business, and allows [customers] to pay on a monthly basis. It includes services, product, labor, and provides Tier I tech support.

Many of our VARs are stepping up to become MSPs. Through partnerships with multiple vendors, they’re providing a single wrapper for data networking, Wi-Fi access, and, frankly, a host of other technologies like unified communications and others.

We have a strong motion to encourage our VAR community to become MSPs. If we reach 10% of current VARs [transitioning to MSPs] that would be great. It’s not something that you can say you’re going to be. You have to be innovative and have the financial strength to do it. You have to have the billing system and be able to compensate your employees accordingly. Additionally, you have to have the strength of conviction that the companies you take on won’t churn and stay for three to five years. We’re seeing a low churn rate, less than 1%.

Network as a service is a little later to the game. It started with SaaS, then UCaaS, then videoconferencing and video surveillance as a service. Now we’re seeing networking as a service, exacerbated by COVID-19 for sure. But clearly companies are looking to MSPs to provide that.

We want to see a percentage of our diamond-level partners move in the direction of becoming MSPs.

I think you’ll see 30% of partners will stay as they are; 30% will be hybrid; and 30% will be cloud-centric, network-as-a-service-centric. So you’ll see a shift among our partners and also in the buying behavior of our customers.

CF: You said that Extreme Networks is helping channel partners transition to become an MSP? How so?

JV: We’re educating them and we’re providing them with Extreme Capital, our financial group for purchasing. Our distributor partners will help them extend payment terms. We’re also educating the market about managed services and we’re providing our partners with customer feedback from our customer conference.

We’re also aligning our sales organization to be able to support them. Post-COVID, we pushed all the responsibilities to the regions as best we could. Extreme also verticalized by SLED, health care and federal government. We have vertical specialists in these areas that work at the street level in local geographies to provide the support that our partners need.

We also have a pricing program with fewer touches. Quotes go in, discounts are approved, and deals are approved the same day — actually, more like the same hour.

We also created a revenue growth office (RGO) for dedicated people who report to one of my senior vice presidents. RGO only thinks about growth for our partners — product, pricing, discount approvals, new routes to markets and so on. We’re proactively identifying growth areas and efficiencies for our partners to expand and become MSPs to strengthen their businesses.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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