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Riverbed Hails Xirrus Acquisition, Challenges Cisco

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James AndersonRIVERBED PARTNER SUMMIT – Riverbed Technology is building its solutions using its recent streak of acquisitions.

In just the past year and a half, the San Francisco-based company has acquired Ocedo, Aternity, and most recently, Xirrus.

Riverbed used its annual Partner Summit in Santa Barbara, California, to explain how the acquisitions – Xirrus in particular – will fit into its strategy. Riverbed announced plans to acquire Xirrus last week in a move that will deepen Riverbed’s SD-WAN offering and provide a standalone Wi-Fi offering. Riverbed executives say Xirrus brings an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solution to the table.

Riverbed's Paul O'FarrellWhile buying cloud-based management system Ocedo last year was a major step for Riverbed’s SD-WAN efforts, purchasing Xirrus solved an unmet demand.

“We recognize that the Ocedo technology, while elegant and designed in a very interesting way, was lacking some enterprise features and also probably lacking the type of scale and density you need in order to deploy into very large organizations,” said Paul O’Farrell, senior vice president of Riverbed’s SteelHead unit.

O’Farrell told Channel Partners that Xirrus helps impact the local area network (LAN) as well as the wide area network (WAN). He says Riverbed was impressed with Xirrus’ customer list and design and found that their cloud management system meshed well with Riverbed’s.

Xirrus is well known for providing Wi-Fi at large conferences and sporting events. Riverbed speakers on Wednesday delivered a not-so-subtle warning to Cisco about the acquisition.{ad}

“I think it’s potentially not just a Meraki killer but will bring even broader disruption to the Wi-Fi market,” O’Farrell said.

CEO Jerry Kennelly compared Riverbed’s SteelHead SD-WAN to Cisco’s Intelligent WAN, criticizing Cisco’s use of routers.

“Let them poison the well on their side. Sell SteelHead with the SD-WAN together, and we’ll have an incredible future,” Kennelly told partners.

Kennelly called Cisco a “lead-generation machine” that will create demand for Riverbed’s SD-WAN solution. O’Farrell says the company has respect for Cisco and that many Riverbed employees came from Cisco.

“But if you look at what’s happening in the networking industry over the last 20 years, Cisco has been extraordinarily successful at creating very strong barriers to entry to other players in the market,” he told Channel Partners.

The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certifications are good example. They became the universal standard and language for network administrators but at the same time “put a break on innovation.”

“Because they had a near monopoly on many segments of the networking market, they didn’t feel …

{vpipagebreak}

… any particular pressure to innovate maybe as fast as they otherwise would have,” O’Farrell said.

Partner Commitment

Karl Meulema, senior vice president of worldwide channels, shared about the transformation of Riverbed’s partner program in the last two years.

Riverbed's Karl MeulemaHe says there were 2,700 partners in the program when he started in 2014, and they generated approximately $700 million in product and $300 million services.

“It became very clear very quickly that if we wanted to get any type of relevance with partners, that we needed to increase the revenue by partner, but only with the partners that wanted us to be relevant,” he told Channel Partners.

That began a process of narrowing the number of partners and re-evaluating their level of commitment. Riverbed now does 80 percent of business through 101 partners. Meulema says this has to do with a shift away from product-centric selling.

“We’re really narrowing down who we’re doing business with. It mays sound kind of counterintuitive. ‘Why would you not partner with anybody?’ The thing is that if you’re selling a box, then you want to have as many partners as possible, because really the only thing you care about is coverage. There’s not a lot of sales process around enablement; the only thing that’s needed is a distribution channel,” Meulema said.{ad}

But partners must invest far more in training if they plan to sell solutions rather than products.

“The big difference between selling a hot box and selling a solution is commitment,” he said.

Meulema noted in his keynote that the global shift to cloud will affect $1 trillion in IT spending over the next five years. He cited an IDC statistic (which Pam Miller shared at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit last week) that says partners and brokers will be involved with 70 percent of that cloud shift.

“You can play a very crucial role in this, because as all of this rolls out, customers need people that understand their business – which is you – that understand the technology – which is you – and who are committed to helping them with that change — that’s a choice that’s up to you.”

Digital Marketing

Riverbed speakers emphasized the dramatic evolution that has occurred in marketing. The traditional linear marketing funnel that begins with potential customers becoming aware is now a thing of the past. The “buyer’s journey” no longer begins with trying to raise awareness or filling a room with people. Now the majority of potential customers do online research about a product before contacting the vendor.

Riverbed is a good example; 80 percent of the company’s leads come from digital sources.

Danister de Almeida, vice president of global channel marketing, said this move to digital occurred around 2014 as the company invested in SEO and other forms of digital targeting and tried to drive customer advocacy.

“We saw a change, yes, but the change also came because we drove the change consciously,” he said.


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