Security vendor SonicWall has gone "back to its roots" after a difficult spell under Dell ownership that forced it to take cost-cutting measures and play catch up with the industry, according to CEO Bill Conner.
SonicWall quickly declared itself a 100-per-cent channel firm and launched its own programme independent of Dell for partners to migrate to.
Speaking to CRN in London following the launch of its SonicWall University training programme and new marketing initiatives, Conner said that the firm had to make radical changes to its business to lift it out of the slump endured under Dell ownership.
"[Partners] weren't making money and neither were we, so that was a recipe for disaster," he said.
"We cut sales, we cut marketing, I cut G&A, everything - including R&D in places - but I've also reinvested where it needed to be done, so I've probably over invested in product first, because of catch up and innovation [needed].
"I had to cut services but reinvest in services; I had to cut sales but reinvest it differently, so you have to just prioritise. I think what the [new] ownership likes is that as a leadership team we made very tough calls to take tens of millions of dollars out of the business to return it profitability."
Conner explained that since SonicWall has signed up 10,000 partners - including 2,000 new partners - and gone from "losing money to making money" in the 150 days since splitting from Dell.
Speaking alongside worldwide sales VP Steve Pataky, who said that "innovation had been stagnated" under Dell ownership, Conner said that SonicWall has been left to play catch up to the rest of the industry in some places, after its time-to-market and speed-to-market slowed dramatically during its time with Dell.
"Clearly in feature functionality it's catch up, on traditional firewall stuff, but clearly people had sandboxes before we did [for example], but what did we do? We re-engineered it to a network sandbox with three engines, so that's more innovation than catch up," he said.
"Is it catch up? Yes, but it's differentiation now. Now what we're doing is applying that across email and soon to be wireless. We've got more engines coming which is all innovation.
"We're going to do next-generation hardware. Some of that is catch up but some of it is frankly just the cycles that security runs in. It's just getting back to battle speed on some of it."
Conner also hinted that SonicWall would be announcing a new alliance with a next-generation endpoint security vendor soon, to upgrade the solutions it currently offers in partnerships with Kaspersky and McAfee.
"In endpoint one could say we're laggard," he said. "We've had McAfee but they're long in the tooth, we've had Kaspersky but they're in the middle of transition.
"Stay tuned, we'll have something there. We'll come out with yet another next-generation AV for the endpoint."
Conner and Pataky were in London speaking to a group of UK partners following the launch of SonicWall University and new marketing initiatives.
"SonicWall was owned by Dell and Dell sold them, but what I'm going to be looking at over the next six to 12 months from a partner perspective is whether Dell still own SonicWall" - Vinny Booth, Solved IT
The two revamped programmes are intended to put more emphasis on partners, allowing them access to the same internal training resources as SonicWall employees - which can be used to generate revenue from end-user training - and also access to marketing material which can be tailored and packaged by the partner.
Vinny Booth, director at security VAR Solved IT, said that the new marketing and training programmes are evidence of SonicWall showing more reliance on partners.
"Yesterday was the first big stride forward [since splitting from Dell] and it was great to see where they're going with the channel for training and making that available to partners," he said.
"Historically I don't know how the partners who have been selling it have been trained and I've seen partners that have been reliant on SonicWall or distribution.
"Certainly that reliance didn't slip when they were with Dell and nothing in the way of education happened with Dell, so for this to be announced with a big focus on educating partners to education customers is magnificent".
Booth said that for the first time since the pre-Dell days SonicWall's senior management presented a clear and achievable roadmap to partners. He explained that under Dell the SonicWall roadmap had seemed overambitious and unrealistic.
"I spend a lot of my time talking with these [SonicWall] guys, getting to know the products and getting into alpha testing, and what I noticed under Dell was that the roadmaps were very inconsistent," he said.
"It wasn't a case that there was not much innovation, if anything the case was that there might have been too many attempts at innovation.
"They wanted to do a lot of things that would have tied up too much resource and I don't think under Dell the priorities were security led, whereas yesterday we looked at the roadmap and there were things that had been removed because they were financially great but needed a lot of steps to happen first."
Despite being positive on the road map, Booth said he is slightly apprehensive to see how much leverage Dell will have over SonicWall in the coming months, with a partnership still in place between the pair.
"SonicWall was owned by Dell and Dell sold them, but what I'm going to be looking at over the next six to 12 months from a partner perspective is whether Dell still own SonicWall," he said.
"My thing here is what will Dell's influence be over a company they have sold but will remain as a partner with? Over the next six months we might not see much there, but as someone who works with the US team I should get a bit more knowledge there and hopefully they'll work with other vendors.
"With Dell being the biggest SonicWall partner by sales force, will they become the biggest partner by revenue? In that instance where SonicWall currently do integration with Dell products, is that going to stop them doing integration with other products? That's the bit that I'm looking at."
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