December 7, 2017
**Editor’s Note: “7 Minutes” is a feature where we ask channel executives from startups – or companies that may be new to the Channel Partners audience – a series of quick questions about their businesses and channel programs.**
In our latest home page flash poll, we asked readers, “What’s the next big “software-defined” sales opportunity after SD-WAN?” Array Networks will be pleased to hear that “NFV to replace hardware firewalls, load balancers and edge devices with virtual services” beat out both software-defined networks and storage by a healthy margin. Array bills itself as “the network functions platform company” based on its main offering, a line of appliances for hosting virtual networking and security functions from a variety of suppliers. It’s aim is to help partners get the business benefits of network functions virtualization – namely, the ability to deliver high-margin services – quickly and to far-flung customers.
Array Networks’ Paul Andersen
In October, Array named Paul Andersen vice president of sales for North America; previously, Anderson was senior director of marketing, so he has insights into the company’s sales and partner marketing, training, enablement and management. Previously, he served in various marketing roles at Cisco, Tasman Networks and Sun Microsystems.
Channel Partners: Tell us what customers love about your product or service. What’s the secret selling sauce?
Paul Andersen: We describe our product as “virtualization that’s purpose-built for network functions and networking professionals.” Here’s what we mean by that: Most off-the-shelf servers and virtualization technologies are designed to support application workloads; also, these technologies are managed by server and virtualization teams — not the networking group.
As a result, partners are finding that their networking buyers – who want to become more agile through the use of virtual appliances (VAs) – are running into challenges in terms of performance and deployment complexity. In contrast to off-the-shelf servers, Array’s Network Functions Platform product is purpose-built for running networking, security and application delivery virtual appliances. This is what customers and partners love about our product.
When virtual appliances are deployed on the Array platform, resources (such as CPU, memory, SSL and interfaces) are assigned and reserved in such a way as to provide the hardware-like horsepower that network functions need in order to run in their power band. Performance is also guaranteed; SLAs are maintained for each virtual appliance, regardless of the type or quantity of additional functions on the platform.
For the networking professional, the Array product speaks their language and bridges the gap to newer cloud and virtualization technologies. Complex server and hypervisor-related configurations tasks, such as CPU-pinning, NUMA boundary settings, SR-IOV, physical and virtual port mapping, are automated by the Array platform. Networking teams just select an appropriately sized platform instance, load the …
… VA of their choice and they are up and running.
One of the best things for customers and partners is that our Network Functions Platform is vendor-neutral, meaning that virtual appliances from any networking, security or application delivery provider can benefit from the advantages described above. Customers can stick with the best-of-breed vendors they trust, and partners can build solutions around the vendors already on their line cards.
CP: Describe your channel program — metal levels, heavy on certifications, open or selective, unique features?
PA: We are trying not to over complicate or overthink things. The vast majority of our partners are “Premier Partners,” and it is a solid, straight-forward program that hits on what is most important to value-added resellers. The program is heavy on pre-qualification — quality and fit are more important than quantity. The margins are strong, with strong incentives for deal registration in order to provide protections for partner-led opportunities.
Sales and technical training – via live, remote and self-paced options – as well as tiered certifications are emphasized, and our partner portal provides a wealth of sales-enablement resources. Marketing, awareness and lead generation are built into every Premium Partner agreement, with additional MDF funds available on a tiered basis. Margins satisfy the partner business, and tiered SPIFFs incentivize individual sales reps.
Last but not least, I think what really sets our program apart is the ability for partners to bring something new to customers that bridges the gap to the future for both the buyer and seller.
CP: Quick-hit answers: Percentage of sales through the channel, number of partners, average margin. Go.
PA: Eighty percent or more goes through the channel, more than 100 partners, margins up to 40 percent with deal registration.
CP: Who are your main competitors, and what makes your offering better?
PA: Historically, Array’s competitors have been the likes of F5 and Citrix. Array has a long history in the application-delivery space and pioneered the evolution from simple load balancers to integrated traffic management (now referred to as an ADC). From a purely app-delivery perspective, Array solutions have always been equally scalable and feature-rich as compared to the competition; however, we differentiated ourselves on being far easier to deploy and manage and also far superior in terms of price-performance.
It is probably no surprise that virtual appliances such as Array’s virtual ADC, virtual SSL VPN and virtual WAN optimization all run on our Network Functions Platform, in addition to support for third-party virtual appliances as mentioned earlier.
With respect to competition for the Network Functions Platform itself, we are now seeing Cisco come into the market with its Enterprise NFV solutions. As with anything Cisco, they are going to want you to do it the Cisco way, as compared to the vendor-neutral approach we have taken. In addition, the benefits of guaranteed performance and abstracting complexity from NFV are uniquely Array.
CP: How do you think your technology portfolio will change in the next three years?
PA: While we have started in the data center, efforts are already underway for platforms designed for …
… the branch (also uCPE/vCPE) and the cloud edge, to bring the power of NFV to any environment. So expect to see this in 2018. Management of virtual appliances, orchestration and service chaining of virtual network functions will increase in importance, and significant effort will be directed in leading the charge in this area.
Related to the platform, you will see a further broadening of the Certified Platform-Ready ecosystem of third-party vendors that have undergone formal interoperability testing to ensure seamless deployment on Array.
CP: How do you expect your channel strategy to evolve over that time frame?
PA: Many traditional value-added resellers are exploring alternative and supplemental business models, such as MSP, SaaS and IaaS. With the emergence of the cloud, there are some declines in the number of businesses that are willing and able to invest heavily in network infrastructure. Partners have to change with the times and provide customers with networking, security and application-delivery services in the new ways that customers are demanding.
I see Array’s Network Functions Platform as a solution that partners can both sell to their customers, but also use internally if they are evolving to offer networking services. Array is the ideal solution for hosting networking services: It provides agile on-demand provisioning of services; it allows quick repurposing of resources to support new or changing customer requirements; it enables remote management; it cuts down on space, power and cooling costs; it supports SLAs in multi-tenant environments; and the list goes on.
So we expect to see an evolution in our partner ecosystem, where some are traditional VARs, some are MSPs and some are a hybrid of the two.
CP: What didn’t we ask that partners should know?
PA: If what you have heard sounds good to you, please contact us at [email protected].
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