Cloudflare Hires Palo Alto Networks Vet Tom Evans As Chief Partner Officer

Cloudflare has hired Tom Evans, formerly the channel chief at Palo Alto Networks, as its first-ever chief partner officer in a bid to scale up its work with solution and service providers, the company exclusively told CRN.

In an interview, Evans said that Cloudflare has made major strides in its channel efforts in recent years and he’s joining the security and IT vendor with plans to accelerate its growth with partners.

“The opportunity for scale and growth here is pretty fantastic,” he told CRN.

[Related: Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince: Most Zero Trust Security Tools ‘Slow You Down’]

Evans’ departure from Palo Alto Networks was disclosed last week. His first day as chief partner officer at San Francisco-based Cloudflare is today.ADVERTISEMENT

Evans will be reporting to Mark Anderson, Cloudflare’s president of revenue, the company told CRN. Anderson formerly served as president of Palo Alto Networks from 2016 to 2018. He was hired by Cloudflare in February from his role as CEO of Alteryx.

Matt Harrell, global head of channels and alliances at Cloudflare, will now report to Evans, the company said.

SASE Growth

Cloudflare has come into increased competition with Palo Alto Networks in recent years, most notably in the fast-growing areas of secure access service edge (SASE) and security service edge (SSE), which are in demand as a way to provide secure access to distributed workforces.

Cloudflare reports that its SASE platform — as well as security offerings such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation and web application firewall — leverage the vendor’s global network, which covers 310 cities across more than 120 countries.

Cloudflare has also expanded aggressively into offering cloud-delivered compute, storage and other developer services, in addition to continuing to operate its widely used web content delivery service.

Evans said the opportunity to work with a company that operates in other areas outside of security helped to drive his decision to join Cloudflare — as was the chance to help mature the company’s channel program.

The Cloudflare partner program is “heading in the right direction,” Evans said, but undoubtedly could benefit from his learnings at Palo Alto Networks, where he had worked in channel roles since 2017 including as worldwide channel chief since late 2022.

In joining Cloudflare, “this gives me a really great opportunity to come in and just take what they’ve already done very successfully and put my stamp on it — and try to replicate some of the same success [at Palo Alto Networks] in driving that business,” he said.

Evans said his initial aim is to connect with Cloudflare’s internal team and with “a ton of partners” before looking to make any adjustments to the company’s channel program.

“We’re going to look to tweak anything with the program that will help them or anything within our own internal processes that will make it easier to do business with us,” he said. “I think they’ll find that I’m very amenable to making changes to really drive the business.”

Ultimately, “there’s a huge opportunity here, and I think we can foster it in a way through partners that’s going to skyrocket this thing,” Evans said.

Evans, who this month was the winner of CRN’s 2024 Channel Madness tournament as channel chief at Palo Alto Networks, had initially joined the cybersecurity giant in mid-2017 as director for public cloud partners and was promoted several times before being named worldwide channel chief in December 2022.

Earlier in his career, Evans spent a decade at F5, including five years as senior director for channel sales and distribution. Evans noted that he had worked with Anderson at F5, and later also overlapped with Anderson at Palo Alto Networks.

The hire of Evans comes as Cloudflare has been ramping up its work with MSSPs and other partners around its SASE and zero trust security offerings. Last year, the company implemented significant updates across provisioning, management and pricing that are key for service providers, Cloudflare said previously.

Evans will now oversee Cloudflare’s PowerUP Partner Program, which was launched earlier this year as an update to the vendor’s prior channel program. Cloudflare recently reported that its revenue through the channel has grown by 174 percent during the past two years.

‘Broad Appeal’

Solution and service provider powerhouse Kyndryl, No. 8 on CRN’s 2023 Solution Provider 500, has been a major partner for Cloudflare since their partnership officially kicked off in May 2023.

In March, Kyndryl and Cloudflare announced that their partnership has been expanded into a global strategic alliance. That signifies the close collaboration between the two companies and the strong future revenue potential of the alliance, said Chris McReynolds, vice president for global offering management, edge compute and network at New York-based Kyndryl.

“We continue to see more successes,” McReynolds said, thanks in part to “the broad appeal that Cloudflare has across different industry verticals.”

Cloudflare has also excelled when it comes to investing in the channel and listening to their key partners, he said.

“They’re listening to our feedback incredibly well,” McReynolds said. “And they’re not only listening to the feedback, but they’re taking that feedback and really shifting their roadmap around so that we can enable a good joint experience for the customers we’re serving.”

As Cloudflare has built out a more complete portfolio of offerings — particularly in the realm of security and SASE — the increased complexity of delivering solutions to customers has also made partners even more essential, he noted.

“They realize they really need these key channel partners,” McReynolds said.

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