Last week, when we launched Access Gateway VPX and Branch Repeater VPX, I blogged about the feedback customers gave us. In this blog, I want to discuss the feedback from channel partners from a few focus groups and meetings over the past few quarters.
Traditionally, vendors talk about competitive dynamics when discussing customers. That is normal because new product launches often don’t fundamentally change partners’ practices of or decisions about any given vendor. Such product launches don’t really sway the partners to favor one product over others or switch from one vendor to another.
Now that seems to be changing. Rather than seeking just industry-leading technologies that address customers’ problems, channel partners are seeking solutions that will help transform their sales and services productivity and profitability. With physical appliances, partners often faced the following challenges:
- How many NFR (not-for-resale) units of physical appliances should a partner purchase? This is the classic dilemma a partner faces when forecasting their sales and POC (proof-of-concept) pipeline. Purchase too many physical NFR units and they are faced with the possibility of idling – and depreciating – NFR units after the spike in sales or POC pipeline gives way to normal baseline sales trends. Purchase too few physical NFR units and they are faced with the possibility of missed sales opportunities, especially considering that any order of physical NFR units will at best take a few days - weeks if you are internationally located – to ship. Either way, partners are forced to take on additional risks – CAPEX budget or lost revenues – something they would like to take out of their productivity and profitability equation.
- What should a partner do if the customer asks them to leave behind the POC equipment for a few more days so they can kick the tires and play around with the POC? This is another dilemma a partner faces: damned they are if they oblige the customer because that ties up their limited equipment, which can’t be used in other sales or POCs; damned they are if they don’t oblige the customer because that is not the brightest approach to building customer relationship, satisfaction and loyalty.
- Should a partner really have to stock each of their vendor’s physical NFR units? When a partner practices selling WAN optimization or secure access SSL VPNs from multiple vendors, they often would like to be able to use the same server hardware for demonstrating any vendor’s WAN optimization or SSL VPN solution. Why? Because using standardized commodity server hardware truly transforms the cost-benefit-risk equation, and in doing so their productivity and profitability.This is where virtual appliances come in to the picture. A partner forecasts their baseline POC pipeline and budgets for physical NFR units to meet part or whole of the baseline demand. For any spikes or variability in demand, the partner leverages virtual appliances to build flexibility and agility in their POC delivery model – all without adding risk to their business or operational model. No more paying for NFR units and then writing them off as depreciation later.
Virtual appliances do change the operating model for partners by allowing them to leverage commodity server hardware for running any network virtual appliance from any vendor.
With virtual appliances, partners now can have customers spare their server hardware, deploy virtual appliances on that server hardware for their POCs, and let the customers play with the POCs as long as they want; all while the partner moves on to their next sale and POC!
After listening to partners feedback, we are offering free NFR instances of Access Gateway VPX and Branch Repeater VPX to our channel partners. This goes a long way to help partners realize the efficiencies and profitability discussed above.
If you are a partner, let us know how you are planning to leverage virtual appliances to transform your business and operating model.
Finally, don’t mistake ‘virtualized platforms’ with ‘virtual appliances’; not all so-called ‘virtual appliances’ are created equal; more on that in my next blog!