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Aryaka Channel Chief: Olen Scott Talks SD-WAN's 'Enormous Tailwind'

Scott says Aryaka has a truly unique SD-WAN platform.

James Anderson

March 14, 2019

8 Min Read
WAN

It’s impossible to miss the enthusiasm in Olen Scott’s voice as he discusses SD-WAN.

The former channel chief for EarthLink and Windstream recently joined Aryaka Networks to lead the vendor’s channel program. Aryaka announced his appointment as senior vice president of worldwide channels two weeks ago.

The globally focused SD-WAN provider has tasked him with expanding and improving its existing partner program.

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Aryaka’s Olen Scott

“Olen will play a critical role in growing Aryaka’s global channel program, and we’re thrilled to have his extensive experience in the managed services and communications industries added to our robust leadership team,” chief revenue officer Karen Freitag said last month.

Scott rose to prominence in the partner community as EarthLink’s channel chief. He later oversaw the company’s channel integration with Windstream.

Scott spoke with Channel Partners about why he joined Aryaka and what he hopes to accomplish. We have edited the transcript for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: What attracted you to Aryaka?

Olen Scott: As you know, I come from the space and had a rather strong background in SD-WAN. In fact, when I ran EarthLink’s channel when SD-WAN was just getting hot, I was often on the same panels as Aryaka, and I loved their story. I loved their value proposition. There’s a middle-mile story. The fact that we own our own global network core is a huge differentiator. And I knew what a differentiator that was when I was sitting across from them as their competitor. So when I got a phone call a couple of months back that Aryaka was looking for a new global channel chief, it was hard throughout the process to contain my enthusiasm. I just loved the value proposition.

In this industry, in this space, there [are] a lot of companies selling what amounts to the same thing or different flavors of the same thing. It’s really exciting and really a privilege when you get to work with a company that you believe has something that is genuinely differentiated. In fact, just calling it SD-WAN actually underserves it, because it goes so far beyond that.

CP: What are some of the differences and similarities between Windstream’s and Aryaka’s platforms?

OS: SD-WAN in its pure sense is software-defined, real-time route selection at the customer edge. Software-defined optimal path selection. That’s SD-WAN. But most companies are deploying it just as software siting on a customer edge, and then it goes out to the internet. When it gets out to the internet — it’s the internet. It’s the Wild West. The internet, while it’s far better than it was five years ago or even two years ago, it’s still the internet with all the uncertainties and unknowns and security risks that entails.

Because we manage and own our own global private network core, the customer uses internet access just to get to …

… our nearest aggregation point. We’ve got 30-plus of these aggregation points globally, and at that point we transit our private global core to the nearest egress to where they’re going. Oftentimes they never lose that private core, because in most cases they’re going to some cloud-based application that sits on an Azure platform or AWS platform, and we’re interconnected with all those platforms. So in those cases they never leave the private core.

That’s a lot of words, but that global private backbone is an enormous differentiator, because basically it’s combining all the benefits and performance optimization of SD-WAN with a private network.

We’re integrated with the best-of-breed security partners. We’re integrated with Zscaler. We’re integrated with Palo Alto. Your network connectivity [is] just part of a security solution. Enterprises are going to have security considerations that go beyond their network service provider with their connectivity. And then we also include in our solution the WAN optimization, which is not included in all or even the majority of SD-WAN solutions that are out there.

We manage the whole thing. We manage it stern to stern. That’s great if you’re one of the majority of the marketplace customers that’s simply looking for this great experience. They’re looking to hand this off. Increasingly I think the market recognizes that customers are looking for a managed solution. The other side of the coin is, we’re reluctant to break our solution apart. We will only sell the business outcome and the experience because we believe that’s the reason why our NET promoter scores are so high. So I won’t break it apart and let a partner sell my customer [just] the SD-WAN software … just the WAN optimization, or “give it to me but don’t manage it.” We won’t break it apart and sell the piece parts, which a lot of our competitors will. We’re selling the business outcome, and because of that we’ve got a list of customers as long as my arm that will tell you how delighted they are.

CP: Matt Carter is really assembling a team right now. What kind of vision did you catch from him?

OS: I interviewed with Matt for the job, and I loved his vision. It’s straightforward. It’s, “We’ve got this.” We have an enormous tailwind in this space, but there have been so many entrants marketing some flavor of something they’re calling SD-WAN. And that’s a little frustrating sometimes as a solution provider. Because there are no standards. There are a lot of things you can market and call SD-WAN. And there are so many entrants into the marketplace that there’s a lot of noise.

Matt and all of us realized that we have to do an even better job of recapitalizing our different platform stages to get the word out. It’s really important to get the message out and articulate these differentiators. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last couple years, it’s that all SD-WAN providers are not created even remotely equal. Right now it’s just …

… evangalization. Our new CMO Sashi [Kiran] — he’s got a big job to get that word out through all the different mediums.

CP: What should we expect to change with Aryaka’s program?

OS: What I’d like to add to the program here is more structure and predictability for our partners around the resources and the enablement that’s available. We have an enormous number of resources and enablement tools and marketing programs, but there’s such a big tailwind in this space, and there’s so much opportunity. We’re enjoying a lot of success, but you have so much success that you kind of approach it opportunistically. We want to “program-ize” it, if that’s the right word, and put a lot of structure around it so our partners exactly know what to expect: “I know that if I do these things, then I get the value of all these benefits.” It’s not a lot more complicated than that.

That’s what the partners have told me over the last few years. One thing that we always do is go to market with our partners. We go to our partners; we ask them, “What’s the program missing? I don’t have a single upset Aryaka customer. Your customers love you, and we love that, because we get no phone calls and no headaches. But we need to hear more from you about the tools and the resources and the differentiations available.”

That’s the strategy right now, just to make sure that we’re constantly communicating with our partners about what’s available to them from a sales-enablement standpoint.

CP: What do you want this partner audience to know?

OS: For global SD-WAN opportunities, we have no-fail executions, which translates to extraordinarily happy customers and very fast commission payments. And nobody else can say that.

CP: What do you say looking back on your time at EarthLink and Windstream?

OS: I’ve learned something from every job I’ve had, and I’ve enjoyed my time at every single one of them. You know who’s educated me the most? It’s the partners. I’d led big sales organizations, but my first [channel leadership role] wasn’t until 2016. I reached out then to all of the godfathers of the space. The Rick Dellars [of Intelisys], the Adam Edwards [of Telarus] — that whole crew. They guided me. So I reached out, and I do it today. That’s one of the things we are doing that [I’ve] had at all of these other places: partner advisory councils. I always seek to have 12-20 leaders from different partners that will huddle with me every year and just tell me what they love about the program and what we need to change about the program. It’s not rocket science. if you listen to the partners, their suggestions will almost always be fair and equitable, and you can build a great program.

The lesson I’ve learned over the last few years is: My teachers then and my teachers now are the partners.

CP: Is there any thing you want to add?

OS: As you can hear, I’m fired up. I love this company. I love this channel space. There’s an enormous tailwind in this SD-WAN space, so I just want to run fast and grab our unfair share. Get as much as we can.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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