Solution providers said Karl Soderlund's energy and focus on emerging technologies make him the right person to lead Palo Alto Networks' global channel organization.
"It is an absolutely perfect move because of what Karl brings to the table. He's a huge advocate for us," said Mark Jones, CEO of Austin, Texas-based BlackLake Security. "I'm extremely pleased with the choice they made."
Soderlund has made a strong impression on Palo Alto Networks' partners since joining the company a year ago as Americas channel chief, with solution providers praising his focus on fast-growing or heavily-committed solution providers as well as his understanding of the importance of services revenue.
"He's really helped us a great deal. He's empowered his team to select the partners that are meeting Palo Alto's level of energy," said Tom Turkot, vice president of client solutions for Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based Arlington Computer Products. "Having Karl at the global level now will only enhance our relationship."
Arlington Computer Products has been a Palo Alto Networks partner since 2009, but the relationship has really taken off in the past three years, Turkot said, with the company's average sales growth around Palo Alto Networks exceeding 100 percent on a year-over-year basis. Much of the recent success has been driven by Soderlund's arrival and presence, according to Turkot.
The way Soderlund has engaged with Arlington Computer Products has helped change the company's culture, Turkot said. Specifically, Soderlund is heavily engaged with his field sales team, Turkot said, and the guidance, advice and support he has provided to his direct reports that work with partners like Arlington Computer Products on a daily basis has resulted in a stronger partnership.
In addition to strong implementation at the field and grassroots level, Turkot said Soderlund has also done a good job of connecting at the executive level. As a result, Turkot said Arlington Computer Products' chairman and president have gotten engaged with the Palo Alto Networks team.
"I hope Karl continues in his new role with the same direction, energy, and processes that he's put together over the past year," Turkot said.
Jones of BlackLake met Soderlund for the first time at April's RSA Conference, and said he provided quality insight around everything from increasing margins to services revenue to ensuring cloud is profitable both today and in the future.
"Immediately, you can tell he really understands the channel," Jones said. "He understands what it takes to be successful sitting on my side of the fence."
One of Soderlund's biggest initiatives, Jones said, has been figuring out what needs to be built or put in place for partners to successfully support clients moving to the cloud. Soderlund has also put a heavy emphasis on ensuring partners truly understand Palo Alto Networks' endpoint protection offering so that they use it internally, drive adoption and increase sales, Jones said.
From a big data and analytics perspective, Jones said Soderlund has been pushing Palo Alto Networks' application framework and helping partners design tools and integrations that address clients' most pressing needs.
From a research and development standpoint, Soderlund should ensure that Palo Alto Networks continues to drive innovation in the market, according to David Polton, director of innovation for Tokyo-based NTT Security.
"They're going in the correct direction, and they continue to grow from an innovation perspective," Polton said.
As for retiring global channel chief Myers, Jones said he really understood BlackLake Security's business model and was very concerned with pushing a lot of the company's initiatives. Specifically, Jones said Myers has played a pivotal role in driving partners toward expanding their services offering, making it easy for companies like BlackLake to wrap their solution around the Palo Alto Networks offering.
During his half-decade at Palo Alto Networks, Jones said Myers has excelled at hiring excellent people that mirror the go-to-market vision he has brought to the table.
"I can't say enough about the guy. He's been such a good advocate for the partner," Jones said. "He's got our ultimate respect."