Intertwined deep within the heart of local organisations, cloud and security conversations are combining to dominate boardroom agendas.
According to EDGE Research, both rank as the leading priorities for customers in 2018, creating a need for the channel to be in-tune with investment plans.
But as partners navigate ongoing end-user complexities, spanning both migration and protection, a robust roadmap is required.
“We’re creating programs that allow our partners to better pivot towards key areas of specialisation, within cloud, security and data centre markets,” said Darrin Iatrou, area partner director of Juniper Networks, when addressing an audience of partners during ARN Connect.
“We are continuing our strong growth across the cloud and data centre markets, while also bolstering our service provider business.
“We also have a strong focus across our security portfolio, where we feel our innovations provide partners with the differentiated solutions to have a credible conversation with customers.”
Iatrou said increasing certification processes for partners will remain a key priority in 2018, through offering relevant training programs as part of an improved engagement model.
“Another key priority is to align my team with our partners to create a ‘sell with’ culture, rather than just ‘sell through’,” Iatrou explained.
“This requires all functions working together in tight alignment, across marketing, inside sales, engineering and services to provide the engine underpinning this type of engagement.”
For Iatrou, a successful Juniper Networks partner is a partner currently “in tune” with the vendor’s expanding ecosystem, spanning areas such as Marketing Development Funds (MDF), rebates, sales, services and renewals.
“Successful partners also have their team of people closely peered and integrated with our teams, to ensure continuity of information going across to our customers,” he added.
“Also, partners can provide value by being comfortable to look outside the box, displaying the courage to explore alternative solutions to best satisfy the needs of the customer.”
In an Australian market expected to spend almost $84.4 billion on technology products and services in 2018, cloud - spanning public, private and hybrid - is expected to dominate the agenda.
Whether through software, services or data centre systems, Gartner research indicated a turnaround in technology spending, driven largely by cloud alongside increased appetite for innovation.
“Cloud has experienced several adoption waves over the years,” observed Dayle Wilson, COO of Brennan IT. “Now the market has shifted to a hybrid IT conversation, which focuses more around security and assessing the risks associated with each application data set.”
Irrespective of business size, the cloud conversation has now reached a point of maturity in the market, moving from conversations of ‘why cloud?’ to ‘why not cloud?’.
“It’s analogous to how the virtualisation conversation has changed,” Juniper Networks senior manager of systems engineering, James Sillence, added. “If you look back 15 years ago, virtualisation was in the domain of test and development environments whereas today, it’s unusual not to virtualise a workload.
“Of course, with that maturity comes a recognition that for most organisations, cloud actually means multi-cloud.”
As a result, Sillence said customers are no longer engaging with a single cloud provider, rather several.
“We are focused on solving that multi-cloud complexity, masking the underlying mechanics of multiple cloud providers to present a single, consistent view,” Sillence added.
Australian organisations are moving aggressively in the direction of hybrid cloud, favouring a balanced approach in the pursuit of innovation.
While such a strategy isn’t new, customers remain challenged by complex migrations, seeking guidance during the implementation process.
“Our customers are primarily using cloud for their production applications,” Wilson explained. “We are experiencing ongoing customer demand for applications to be migrated to the appropriate cloud solution.
“This is based on three primary factors, application security requirements, application functionality and supportability and financial-based trigger events.”
From a channel perspective, the business formed a strategic partnership with Juniper Networks based on the rollout and deployment of Brennan IT’s new telecommunications and cloud core networking equipment.
“This is a two-year project in which we are replacing virtually every device in our core network with the next-generation of Juniper Networks kit,” Wilson explained. “The partnership is both a traditional supplier and customer relationship, and also a reseller relationship in which we sell Juniper hardware to our customers.
“Juniper Networks was selected based on a combination of factors including the support contract, hardware maturity, density / capacity of the solution and value for money.”
When assessing the ever-changing cyber security market - both locally and globally - Sillence said the evolving nature of threats requires customers to adopt a robust security posture, a posture capable of being “highly adaptive” amid a “very dynamic” attack landscape.
Because while a “detect and remediate” stance was adequate in the past, Sillence cautioned that an appropriate defensive posture now must be highly automated, removing human intervention from the response path.
“Spending patterns are changing to reflect these dynamics,” he observed. “There is a shift away from point products towards highly integrated security platforms that have machine learning and threat analytics built into their core.
“Customers are demanding greater visibility into their security incidents and looking for event correlation which results in actionable, prioritised mitigation.”
Following the introduction of the Notifiable Data Breach amendments to the Privacy Act, Sillence acknowledged that there has “never been a better time” for partners to open dialogue around security with customers.
“This is a great opportunity to discuss the obligations that almost every Australian organisation has around the personal information that they hold and the ramifications of a security incident in light of the new notification laws,” he said.
“Juniper Networks has a long history in cyber security, built on an open, highly integrated platform. We will continue our leadership in the security space, further enhancing our customers’ ability to deal with the threat landscape both in their own environments and in the cloud.”
Specific to technology, Sillence said threat intelligence, machine learning and analytics combine to form the crucial components of any “robust security posture”, creating new opportunities for partners as a result.
“These will continue to be a focus area for Juniper Networks,” he added.
But while technology innovation is crucial, combined with a healthy influx of new solutions and offerings, partners require more from vendors in terms of channel engagement and enablement.
“In major segments, vendor selection begins with alignment to our overall go-to-market strategy and vendors will be viewed as core to business, critical to emerging business or augmenting our solutions,” Harbour IT COO, Josh Watts, said.
“Priority will be given to those vendors in the core and critical areas and usually there will be a relationship with two vendors in each space while one will often be primary.”
As explained by Watts, the choice of a new vendor in a category will be driven by technology innovation, including the incremental value such solutions will provide customers.
Further key considerations include the ease of up-skilling internal capabilities in terms of learning and implementing the technology, alongside ease of doing business through distribution.
“The action of a vendor, both current and historic, in terms of competing directly with the channel will also be a factor in both the decision to support a product and the traction it gains with individual sales people,” Watts added.
For Matt Wynn-Jones - speaking as managing director of Counterparts Technology - vendors must also align to the overall strategy of a partner to be successful, specifically security and risk; workspace efficiency and hybrid cloud and data centre optimisation.
“If the technology fits these criteria, we then implement a structured approach,” Wynn-Jones explained. “This tiered approach includes training and certification, marketing and lead generation initiatives, both channel and direct sales team engagement and finally, an understanding of our culture and client engagement approach.
“This has flipped the dynamics of traditional vendor/partner relationships but it has allowed us to achieve real focus and alignment with our strategic and alliance partners.
“In addition, it also provides a clear and structured pathway for us to embrace new and emerging technology partners.”
Meanwhile, Wynn-Jones said Counterparts Technology also leverages distribution in the channel, seeking to extract “real value” from partnerships in the process.
“Our expectation is that they provide pre-sales and post-sales support, dedicated account management and a third-party logistics facility,” Wynn-Jones said. “This is alongside access to configuration facilities, finance options, vendor marketing assistance, deal registration and management.
“But importantly, they must understand our business model, our culture and how we approach and manage our clients.”
Speaking as a long-standing Juniper Networks partner, Rob Kingma - CEO of ICT Networks - said the technology provider has two categories of vendors, spanning invested and sell through.
“Invested vendor partners are selected on two major criteria,” he explained. “Firstly, that the technology set aligns with ICT's service and product offerings and adds significant value to our clients.
“Secondly, that there is a clear return on investment to ICT for our sales, engineering, service and process investment in the vendor. This usually means there is opportunity for ICT branded service offerings presented by the vendor.”
Furthermore, Kingma said sell through vendors are selected on the criteria that their product is alongside with the provider’s services and product offerings.
“But also, that they are in demand by our client base and are available through one of our existing distributor partnerships,” he qualified.
“Distributors are vital outsource partners. We outsource our import logistics, warehousing, credit finance and sell through vendor management to our distribution partners.”