Empowering partners

Channel Post speaks with Taj El Khayat, Director for the Gulf, Levant & North Africa Region at F5 Networks on the company’s channel strategy to drive a profitable and successful channel.

Taj El Khayat, Director for the Gulf, Levant & North Africa Region at F5 Networks

How is the market for DDoS faring and what kind of market share do you claim?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks are increasing in scale and complexity, threatening to overwhelm the internal resources of businesses globally. These attacks combine high-volume traffic with stealthy, low-and-slow, application-targeted techniques. In the Middle East, the adoption of BYOD has led to an increase in the number of DDoS attacks. This is largely due to the reality that mobile networks can be easily accessed and tampered with leaving enterprises vulnerable to attacks.  The DDoS prevention market in EMEA is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 22% until 2019. This rise in DDoS attacks is also evident from the fact that in 2016, F5 handled and mitigated 8,536 DDOS instances.

According to the latest figures from IDC from Q1 CY 2017 (F5’s fiscal Q2 2017), F5 had approximately 46% market share in the worldwide Application Delivery Controller (ADC) market. F5 has also been positioned in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers as a “Leader” for the tenth consecutive year.

What factors are driving growth in this market and how much do you expect to grow in the coming year?

I think it is important to point out that organizations across the world are suffering high-profile and damaging breaches and this is not specific to the Middle East region. When it comes to DDoS attacks, one contributing factor is the increase of insecure, connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT devices are very attractive from a DDoS perspective, as they do not require additional expenses, social engineering attacks, email-infection campaigns, exploit kits or fresh zero-days. They also tend to have poor security standards. The prevalence of DDoS is likely to grow if the right security measures are not in place.

We are currently striving to significantly increase our security revenue in the next 18 months, working closely with our customers and partners to leverage our solid and growing installed base. In the Middle East, we continue to benefit from healthy double digit growth.

How is the industry coping up with latest surge in cyber-attacks and in your experience how willing are enterprises in the region to invest in cyber security?

Cybersecurity has become top priority for organizations and governments around the world. We see that, even with limited budgets, security is an area where customers are willing to spend. However, we encourage our customers to not just buy technology as a fix but rather integrate it into the company’s overall approach to security. We also tend to find that customers will only look at partners that offer best-in-class skills and resources when it comes to overcoming security challenges. Security and consolidation are clearly emerging as the top go-to market strategies in these difficult, fast-changing times.

What is your channel strategy and how do you support your partners?

Our channel strategy is focused on embedding our Application Security Platform into the reference architectures of our partners, leveraging our technology alliances and certified solutions. We focus on enabling expertise to deploy, operate and support F5 technology through our channel, and empower our partners to engage in the marketplace independently.

We support our partners through the F5 Unity Partner Program, which offers an industry-leading suite of partner-relationship options and solutions, underpinned by F5’s world-class support.  Our goal is simple: to help our Value Added Resellers sell more and earn more on each sale with high-quality, high-margin F5 solutions integrated with their services. Our partner ecosystem in the Middle East is supported by a specialized team of Pre-Sales Consultants and Channel Managers, as well as security experts that cater to their requirements and customer engagement requests.

What are the key features of your channel program?

The F5 Unity Partner Program offers the most compelling suite of partner relationship options in the industry. Some of its main features are:

  • Unified Deal Registration – enabling partners to better identify and pursue opportunities leads to smoother sales cycles and enhanced returns.
  • Investment Support – UNITY features discounts based on the partner offering clearly defined value-added services, including training programs that increase their customers’ awareness and knowledge of application delivery solutions.
  • Comprehensive Partner Portal – tight integration with F5’s CRM infrastructure gives partners the ability to intelligently track sales opportunities, and simplifies access to solution information and other F5 resources.
  • Marketing Tools Designed for Distributors – F5 arms channel partners with dedicated marketing resources, including programmatic support for lead generation, customer-focused events, and targeted outreach campaigns.

How do you ensure channel stays profitable and enjoys decent margins?

Our philosophy to keep the channel profitable is to engage early with our partners in constructing projects and initiatives with customers. We empower our partners to position their support and professional services, and create a clear differentiation in pricing based on partner leveling and deal registration programs.

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

F5’s main differentiator is its focus on application performance, flexibility and usability, where we continuously strive to enable organizations to successfully deliver business-critical applications and give them the greatest level of agility to stay ahead of growing business demands. Another key differentiator is that we have a single, centralized platform that sits in the heart of the data center. We then add different features and functionalities on top of that and thus occupy a strategic position with more apps than any other company. This is good for us, as the world is only going to have more apps, in the hands of more people, in more places.

We make also sure that our partners are well equipped to carry out more solution selling and leverage F5’s strong install base. In line with this, we have our own security operation centres around the world, where we analyse and understand developments from a security threat standpoint.