Intent-Based Networking Pioneer Apstra Launches Formal Channel Program

The Apstra Partner Advantage program will help partners sell data center networking automation that can play well with other third-party networking gear, such as from Cisco, Arista and Juniper Networks.

Intent-based networking startup Apstra has launched a formal partner program, without any unnecessary bells and whistles.

The Apstra Partner Advantage program will offer partners a straight-forward approach to working and growing with Apstra, John Atchison, director of global partner marketing, told CRN. The program will target system integrators and resellers that are looking for a differentiated data center networking automation solution that can work well with third-party networking products.

"I've worked for large companies where channel programs were complicated with tiers and certifications that really made partners jump through all these hoops," Atchison said. "That's something I absolutely didn't want to do, so one of the pillars around our program is simplicity."

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The formal partner program will give Apstra the framework it needs to scale with partners. All Apstra partners will be able to register deals, regardless of the level the solution provider may be within the program. All Apstra partners can also apply for marketing development funds, according to the company.

The goal of the program is to go "narrow and deep" with the right solution providers, Atchison said.

Flexibility is another pillar of the program. Vendor-agnostic Apstra lets customers choose their hardware and operating systems, which also opens up new selling opportunities for partners, he said.

"Partners have the chance to generate more revenue by offering different types of hardware -- it could be Cisco, Juniper, or Arista -- whatever the customer needs," he said.

Myriad360, a security-focused solution provider based in New York City, has been partnering with Apstra for nearly four years. Myriad also works with other networking providers, such as Cisco, Arista Networks, Brocade, and Mist Systems, a Juniper Networks company.

"One of the biggest selling points is Apstra's vendor-agnostic nature," said Chris Grundemann, vice president of client success for Myriad360. "We're really focused on software first and letting customers pick the hardware later, so we can even lead with Apstra and work with whatever networking platform the company wants to go with."

Apstra, now with a formal partner program in place, is setting clear terms that it wants for its company and its partners, Grundemann said. "I see it as one more step in the journey they've been on for the past few years," he said.

Apstra will be hiring additional partner marketing staff under Atchison, as well as more channel staff to support partners, the company said.

Apstra began shipping products nearly four years ago. The firm in January released Apstra AOS 3.2 for its data center network automation platform, which now includes Intent Time Voyager, a capability that lets users move the entire state of a network, including intent, configuration and continuous validations, backwards or forwards in time with a few clicks, according to the company.

"Apstra offers partners the ability to offer a solution that is truly differentiated -- no one else is offering that," Atchison said.

Atchison has plenty of experience building partner programs. Prior to joining Apstra eight months ago, he served as director of global strategic alliances marketing for software firm Sage and also held partner marketing positions with VMware and Oracle.

Apstra was founded by three IT veterans. David Cheriton, the company's co-founder and lead investor who became CEO in January, previously co-founded Arista Networks. Cheriton also is a renowned researcher and former Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Mansour Karam, co-founder and president of the company, held previous business development roles at Big Switch Networks as well as at Arista Networks. Apstra's CTO Sasha Ratkovic, another founder of the firm, served as an engineer and solutions architect for Juniper Networks and EMC.