2020 was an extraordinary year and, if nothing else, the last 18 months have certainly accentuated the importance of digital resiliency. Now, as we move into a recovery phase post pandemic, our own research, undertaken earlier this year, highlighted that the workforce won’t return to pre-COVID working practices, and that we should expect a hybrid approach to the office environment. The research analysed how senior IT professionals in communication service provider organisations will adapt to a post-COVID-19 world, and the challenges they face with a more distributed workplace. It found that 67% believe their customers will continue to operate with employees working from home even post-pandemic.
Certainly, the consumer shift online is here to stay, whether that be for public services, retail, entertainment, or healthcare. Again, while some will return to shopping on the high street or going into the civic centre to pay their council tax, others will continue to enjoy the convenience that online delivers.
Technology Trends Fuelling Demand
Despite the disruption of the last year and a half, business has continued to evolve, and our channel has continued to grow as a result of five key trends.
The first is the acceleration and proliferation of IoT. In 2020, there was a noticeable shift in the types of businesses adopting IoT, which is now becoming mainstream as enterprises move from experimentation to deployment across global operations.
The second and probably most notable trend is the shift to the cloud as organisations continue their digital transformation journeys. In fact, cloud services spend was already growing much faster than on-premises IT spend at the beginning of 2020, and this momentum has only increased during the pandemic.
Thirdly, 5G deployment and the associated security issues is very much front-of-mind, which was also reflected in our research. When it comes to 5G, just under one-third of respondents (31%) we surveyed stated that maintaining a quality service and avoiding service outages were top security challenges. While 21% said unpredictable subscriber usage with changing patterns on the network was a top challenge. And certainly, we see channel partners helping customers with cloud migration and the adoption of 5G as they address concerns around network security and the current lack of agility and visibility throughout the IT infrastructure.
Overcoming Operational Complexity
This brings me to the fourth trend which is around operational complexity. As organisations, regions and countries go in and out of lockdown and need to scale up or scale back certain initiatives, it has created significant IT challenges. In today’s digital business environment, you’ve got to stay agile and innovative to compete, grow, and thrive. In fact, even facing an uncertain economic outlook over the past year, 70% of businesses planned to maintain or increase digital transformation spending during the pandemic. As a result, we have seen high demand for solutions like A10 Thunder ADC and Harmony Controller, which empowers businesses to deliver secure application services across traditional data centres, and private, public and hybrid cloud environments. This solution underpins our vision to help businesses become more secure, responsive and agile as they bridge traditional and cloud-based application environments.
Finally, as ransomware attacks, DDoS, and other threats grow in sophistication, and enterprise environments become more distributed and dynamic, cyber security and compliance become critical challenges. Again, our research showed how important it is for organisations to protect against such threats. Forty-three percent stated that DDoS protection service for enterprise customers was a top security priority in 2021, while 39% of respondents said ransomware protection services for enterprise customers was their highest priority.
Focused Programmes that Support the Channel
All these trends have created demand for our products and services and have remained focus areas for both A10 Networks and our channel partners. To address these trends, we introduced five key channel initiatives at the start of 2021 in order to focus support and resources in these key areas:
- Deal registration is paramount; we have had deal registration incentives running since the beginning of the year to ensure partners register leads in line with our areas of focus and business growth.
- Distribution underpins our channel strategy and we have continued to recruit new partners across the region to ensure that we are well represented in all territories.
- Building our ecosystem and partner network is key to our ongoing success. Our focus here is on partnering with players who are strong in key verticals and can bring talent and expertise to our customers.
- Partner enablement: we launched a new technical ambassador programme, through which our technical team are mentoring our partner’s technical teams.
- Finally, the Lead the Way initiative, which utilises our partner network to develop leads and marketing initiatives via our partner portal.
With channel front and centre to all our programme activities, we renamed our partner tiering model to: Member, Advanced and Elite, and we launched our Elevate to Elite programme designed to help accelerate our partners’ growth and enable them to fast track through the various partner levels.
Building a Bigger Footprint
Our channel strategy encompasses APAC, EMEA and South Asia and provides us a unique perspective across a large segment. This allows us to consolidate and coordinate our channel strategy to an ever-greater degree while also allowing for flexibility to manage customer and channel needs across individual countries and regions. But, above all, we appreciate that some countries will be emerging at a different pace to others, as lockdowns and restrictions are enforced and relaxed. Therefore, our overriding priority is the security and safety of our partners and customers around the world; we’re committed to working with them to achieve this.