SonicWall’s strategic focus on expanding the company’s share of the midmarket in addition to its SMB base has been a clear objective since Bill Conner took the helm as CEO with the spin-out from Dell Technologies. It has been an explicit priority in the three large solution refreshes SonicWall has announced over the last year, and an objective of the enhanced channel enablement issues the company has introduced in the same timeframe. It has also led the company to make changes to its sales motion, introducing a direct touch component to work with these larger customers who want some direct interaction with the vendor during the sales cycle. The objective is to leverage SonicWall’s own resources to drive new midmarket business – without departing from their 100 per cent channel philosophy, or even limiting the channel role in these opportunities to fulfilment.
“The midmarket is in a really precarious situation compared to the large enterprise,” Conner told ChannelBuzz. “They have more money than SMBs – but not really enough to run a SOC. We can now provide them with our automation with real time capabilities, bringing the threat intelligence and visibility they need, and do it across the endpoint now with Capture Client. We can also do across their applications with Capture Security Center, and ultimately – a little foreshadowing – we will do it for wireless. Enterprise vendors like Check Point and Palo Alto Networks who sell into the midmarket don’t have that ability in the cloud. They own the data centres in the midmarket, but you can’t just look at on prem-based management capability. The midmarket needs solutions and platforms that are integrated into the cloud, and that’s what we build. I don’t think that they can do that.”
“There’s an intersection of great security and visibility at a cost that makes sense for the distributed enterprise, and that’s where we are planning the flag, in these distributed and campus networks,” said Steve Pataky, SonicWall’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Channel, and Chief Revenue Officer. “Deploying what you deploy in the data centre doesn’t make sense there, and that’s where we thrive.”
These enhancements have also strengthened SonicWall significantly in the MSSP market, Conner stressed.
“I now have a high-end multi-service architecture appliance available in virtual that can give MSSPs the tools, analytics and visibility they need in a service-oriented architecture – in any cloud format, however they want to deploy it,” he said. “That’s what came together with our last big release a month ago.”
This mega-release was SonicWall’s third since last fall, and was explicitly advertised as refreshing and upgrading their capabilities to have the solutions to target the midmarket with confidence. The June announcement featured enhanced and integrated management in their Capture Cloud Platform as well as multiple announcements around firewall, endpoint, and cloud application security. It built on the announcements from last September and this April.
“In June we announced twelve new products and 35 million lines of code, completing our rollout of 24 new products and 160 million lines of code,” Conner said. “The new products like the refreshed SuperMassives are aimed at the midmarket, including our 12000 series for MSSPs, and really puts us in a net new opportunity. We have been keenly focused and got our innovation back. We not only stopped Meltdown, but all the variants of Spectre. Our RTDMI [Real Time Deep Memory Inspection] technology has stopped threats not seen commercially by anyone. We have gotten really positive feedback about our ability to keep in front of malware and encrypted threats.”
The drive upmarket on the solutions front has been complemented by new and enhanced partner enablement activities designed in large part to strengthen the channel in the midmarket. This includes the launch of SonicWall University, a new professional services program for partners, and adding an MSSP program to their SecureFirst Partner Program.
The addition of a direct touch sales motion is the most recent component of this strategy.
“We started at the beginning of this year and recently doubled down,” Conner said. “Steve [Pataky] originally started this initiative, but when we announced the new products in late June, we also announced this initiative, and Bob VanKirk, our CMO, took over that piece. Bob will spearhead it and work in conjunction with Steve.”
The direct touch will be focused on the midmarket and SLED markets.
“The intent is to co-sell with partners and leverage those verticals,” Conner said. “When you deal with some larger accounts, they want to see a roadmap and meet with head of services behind the partner. Some of our high-end partners have a strong midmarket touch. But there are others who have more of an SMB motion, and it will be beneficial for us to talk to those customers. We don’t think of it as direct, and we are still 100 per cent channel, but we have to get the solutions capabilities that we have to these higher-end customers. I’m number five in the midmarket according to Gartner. I’ve now really got product for this market, but to move up from number five, I need to do more. We think that adding a direct touch to our partners that are already in the market as well as to net-new ones will do this. I’m not going to stay number five.”
“It is definitely a co-selling motion, and we are looking for partners to add as much value as they can to every opportunity,” Pataky said. “Our expectation is that any partner that engages with us will add as much value as possible. We don’t plan to do the work and then hand it over for fulfilment. It’s still a value-add model. Partners tell us that if we can add more value when we engage with bigger customers, that would add incremental value.
“It also doesn’t signal any move away from our traditional business and the SMB channel,” Pataky added. “We’ve invested more there, and will consistently invest more, in those inside sales teams and enablement programs.”
SonicWall has always had a strong component of partners who have had very successful businesses selling firewalls, even though the partners themselves are very small – often under five people and some one-man shops. Some of these partners have evolved their businesses along with SonicWall, but many have not.
“We have many ‘lifestyle partners,’ and you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink,” Conner said. “We have done the enablement activities to help them evolve. It’s okay if they don’t want to evolve. They can stay with a lifestyle account and make money, and we’re happy with that. But we want to help those traditional partners who want to be MSPs, and MSPs who want to be MSSPs.”
“Our MSSP program provides partners with an onramp that shows them how to drive a portable MSSP program with SonicWall – if they are willing to make the investment that opens up an opportunity for them,” Pataky said. “It’s the same with our Professional Services program. If you have the desire and commitment, we can help you drive more professional services. That’s why we have a Registered level in our program, to show them the onramp and the path to get to Silver, the next level. But we have created such an efficient distribution that we will support the livestyle partner. We won’t harass them.”
The only exception, Conner stressed, is if the partner hasn’t kept up with the core skills necessary for security today.
“If you don’t have the skills to turn on DPI-SSL, that’s a problem,” he said. “The only thing standing in front of their customers to protect them is the partner. They can be whatever kind of partner they want to be, but their number one job is to protect their end user. If they don’t have the skills, we will harass them on that. If someone doesn’t want to turn on a DPI-SSL, they are just playing Russian Roulette with their customer. The threat environment has changed, and just putting in a firewall doesn’t mean you are safe any more.”