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The integration problem is so pervasive that many VARs will stick with the solutions they have invested time and money in. Along with that comes revenue from the services and integration work required to make security products work.
"The integration is difficult; there are so many software and hardware opportunities, you don't know what to buy," says Robert Brown, the general manager at Professional Technology Integration, a Seattle-based Symantec and WatchGuard Technologies reseller. "Then you look at profit opportunity, but does that really matter? I've been reluctant to make changes in our model because we have Symantec down and we know what we're doing."
Solution providers sang the same song about evaluating vendors to partner with or to purchase security products from. Topping the list of desired vendor attributes was quality of technical support, followed by presales and postsales support. This reflects the trouble and challenge solution providers have in deploying and integrating security solutions with other security products or with customers' existing architectures. When something goes wrong or if the product isn't working to spec, they want a vendor that can supply quick and accurate remediations.
"Whenever I call tech support, I get some idiot that keeps me on the phone for an hour and a half," Austin Network's Kivell says. "I want to talk to a person that can get the problem taken care of quickly."
The results aren't too shocking, considering security solution providers have consistently ranked integration and tech support at the top of the VARBusiness Annual Report Card evaluation criteria. These are also areas where major vendors, such as CA, Check Point, McAfee and Symantec, received low scores.
The integration problem is exacerbated by the fact that most VARs are implementing products without the help of vendors' field support. More than 60 percent of solution providers are selling and implementing security solutions on their own. Comparatively, only 41 percent are working with vendors on implementations, and 26 percent work with distributors.
Of the surveyed VARs, 37 percent said they lack the technical expertise to effectively implement security solutions; 32 percent said they receive poor vendor support. While many solution providers are selling security, it seems few have the depth or experience necessary to fully capitalize on the market opportunities.
In the Market Insight report, 40 percent of end users said it was important for their VARs to hold vendor security certifications. Chief among the security vendor certifications were Cisco's, McAfee's, Microsoft's, Sun Microsystems' and Symantec's. But 43 percent of VARs say they can't afford the expense of training and certifying their staff in security technologies.
The skill shortage and integration challenges are particularly troubling when you consider that the lowest revenue-generating security software technologies, according to the State of Technology survey, are federated identity management, auditing and forensics, compliance management, intrusion-prevention/intrusion-detection systems and endpoint-security-compliance products. Those require extensive fine-tuning.
"Building the stable of expertise has been challenging...you have to find the right people to work with customers in a consulting role," says Jim Bakic, sales director at Innovative Computer Solutions, a Milwaukee-based Fortinet partner and managed security-services provider. "Most of the people we've brought onboard are people we've had past relationships with."
Conversely, the top revenue-generating security-software technologies--storage security, security policy management, configuration management, patch management and security-information management--are relatively more mature. The more experience solution providers have with a technology, the easier it is for them to integrate and maximize their revenue.
NEXT: Profit remains a mystery
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