ChannelTech Middle East and Africa (CTMEA) talks to Andy Zollo, vice president, SonicWALL EMEA on the vendor’s plans to pioneer new initiatives in the MEA region.
CTMEA: A lot has been said about 2011, what is SonicWALL’s main focus for the MEA channel this year?
Andy Zollo: SonicWALL views the Middle East and Africa region as the fastest growing geography that the company covers and that’s why we have put in and will continue to invest in the channel in this emerging market. The investments we have been making relate to technical resource and support, as well as marketing and brand awareness channel initiatives. For instance, we’re just starting a technical resource in Saudi which will be established soon and provide on the ground in-country support.
We’re also looking for a direct touch because, as we expand into the enterprise market and we need more of that customer touch ourselves so that the channel should deliver on the opportunity. It’s all about providing comprehensive support to our channel ecosystem and getting the balance. Overall, the partner landscape needs to be balanced with distributors to improve our market reach and base. They’re two types of distributors we engage with and these are typically those who adopt the SMB range of products and enterprise focused partners that engage with top tier system integrators, VARs, and solution providers. We have a clear global two tier channel policy and everything goes through the channel. Even as we deploy direct touch, the channel can be reassured that everything goes through distribution and all those direct touch initiations are passed on to channel partners to fulfill the deals.
CTMEA: You have mentioned of technical resource as an area where SonicWALL will be investing quite substantially in 2011. What other initiatives should your channel partners expect from the company?
Andy Zollo: Technical resource is top of the agenda because when we train partners, quite naturally they want more of SonicWALL technical input. When the channel needs help in an engagement, it’s typically a technical engagement rather than a sales person. That’s our priority for this year to ensure that in all the countries we address in the Middle East are properly covered from a technical resource perspective. That said, the next natural progression for SonicWALL will be to grow the installed business base. We will be doing this while we identify vertical segments where we together with our channel partners have become the experts in that market or field? When we identify and research such markets, we can then support our channel better. Channel enablement is a key factor here and we have communicated to our partners that this year will focus on enabling them to do better business with SonicWALL.
CTMEA: What products will create business opportunities for SonnicWall and its partners in the region in 2011?
Andy Zollo: As a security appliances solutions company, SonicWALL will continue to push products in the security space in particular network security solutions. We’ll continue to push Unified Threat Management (UTM). SonicWALL’s firewall appliances seamlessly integrate intrusion prevention, malware protection, application intelligence, control and visualisation, IPSec VPN, SSL VPN, wireless controllers and many other features to deliver comprehensive protection and maximum performance to address any size deployment from enterprise to SMB. We’ve added visualisation recently which makes it a lot easier for management to see what’s happening on the network. Relating it to granularity – we want you to use Twitter for business.
In addition, we’ve also scaled to the carrier level. On the SMB side, we’ve revamped our back-up/disaster recovery product offerings which should make it easy for the channel to go and get managed services provider (MSP) type of business. If we can make something easy for the channel to sell, they’ll sell lots of it and if we make it too difficult, then they’ll tend to shy away from such initiatives.
CTMEA: Are you encouraging your partners to sell MSP or other IT consultancy type services in addition to the products they sell?
Andy Zollo: Definitely and SonicWALL approach to all this has been to assist partners in creating, nurturing and owning the relationship with the end-user client. If the channel owns the relationship with their customers, in most cases that leads to 50% of revenue with that customer coming from services.
SonicWALL’s services add value to organisations big or small by protecting their valuable data and ensuring the productivity of the workforce. The company’s global network of channel partners offers a variety of services to assist clients in designing, implementing and managing SonicWALL solutions. In addition, SonicWALL also offers a range of professional services to meet clients needs, from remote start-up and configuration service to our traditional statement of work-based services. Combined with their detailed knowledge of SonicWALL products and services, SonicWALL’s consultants bring wide industry experience, tested methodologies, and the backing of SonicWALL’s engineering support to every engagement. All these initiatives are being rolled out in countries or geographies where the SonicWALL brand is making significant inroads.
CTMEA: What significant initiative or plan does SonicWALL have for its channel in the MEA market?
Andy Zollo: The one thing that the company always focuses on with its channel partners is training. Regionally in the Middle East we have been doing quite a number of road shows in Qatar, KSA, Kuwait and UAE all in an effort to get the channel going. We have event taken this further by engaging with end-user clients in forums that aim to create demand for the customers. Although we have made huge strides in the MEA bracket, there’s still a large and untapped market out there.
CTMEA: Which territories will receive more technical support in the MEA region in 2011?
Andy Zollo: This is a huge geography for us but if you look at the Middle East, the KSA is a priority market for the company and we have been working with partners on the ground to harness all the opportunities that are emerging in the technology areas that we cover. The UAE is another country that is vital and off course on the African continent there are several countries that have been coming along well. We have managed to have distributors in key markets such as South Africa covering Southern Africa, and in East and West Africa.
CTMEA: How have you lessened any conflict of interest arising from your direct touch model?
Andy Zollo: It’s important to reiterate that no matter what SonicWALL is a channel centric company. Having said that, we always have to use the term carefully and communication with our partners be it distributors or resellers is vital. We are transparent in our dealing with channel partners and they know the company has no plans to go direct and compete with them. The challenge that any vendor would face not just us is that they’re going direct. The difference however when you’re moving from SMB to enterprise is that, at the enterprise level, the customer expects to see the vendor and engage. That’s a cost of getting into that market, we recognise that. The direct touch teams works in three areas. Firstly, assistance of channel, going out with resellers to end-users to help the sale and that becomes an education.