Security Vendors Get Complaints And Kudos Alike From Partners


When it comes to working with the channel, some security vendors get it, while others wind up clashing with their partners, according to solution provider executives at the CRN Security Roundtable in New York.

Gary Fish, president and CEO of FishNet Security, said his firm sells support for Check Point Software Technologies products but finds itself competing with the manufacturer, which sells its own support.

"You pay to be part of the CSP [Check Point Certified Support Partner Program. It's not cheap. You have to make an investment in training to get to the level of CSP," Fish said. "[But Check Point has its own support. They pay commissions to their guys for selling their support. We always have a conflict when we're going into an account to sell our support and Check Point is going in to sell their support."


'We always have a conflict when we're going into an account to sell our support and Check Point is going in to sell their support.' > Gary Fish, FishNet Security

Check Point encourages customers to look for solution providers that are CSPs, said Jim Lima, worldwide channel marketing manager at the Redwood City, Calif.-based security vendor. "But we also know that there's a choice that a customer and a partner makes, because not every partner is a CSP or has a support offering," he said. "We're providing choice not only for the customer,because some do want to go direct to the manufacturer for support,but also for the partner, who can deliver Check Point support or resell our direct support."

Trend Micro's business practices have put it at odds with the channel, said Conqwest CEO Michelle Drolet. For example, Drolet said Trend Micro nearly forced her to sign a blanket purchase order to keep Conqwest competitive with other premier partners in the antivirus and Web content security vendor's channel, but then refused to book sales against the order. She said Trend Micro also asked her to pull many of Conqwest's customer records for the past five years, which led her to question the vendor's motives.

A year ago, Trend Micro had a promotional program under which VARs could prepay for products and receive a discount, but the company has since dropped that program, said Elliott Lowe, director of channel marketing at the Cupertino, Calif.-based vendor. Not all sales, such as those that go through distributors, were covered under the purchase orders, a Trend Micro spokeswoman said.

Regarding the request that Conqwest pull customer records, Lowe said that a year ago, Trend Micro implemented a new system to track customers and their maintenance renewals. Because many of Trend Micro's sales go through distributors, it often doesn't have records of those sales and, in such cases, has asked VARs to provide them, he said. This quarter, Trend Micro plans to begin issuing maintenance renewal notices to customers and will direct them to contact the solution provider that sold them the product, Lowe said.

Roundtable panelists had no such issues with security appliance vendor NetScreen Technologies, which they praised as channel-friendly. Dan McCall, executive vice president and co-founder of Guardent, said that even though his company only offers services, it can strongly influence customers' product decisions,a fact lost on many vendors, but not on Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetScreen.

"Not only do they recognize that we can influence their sales, but then they put us in touch with their entire channel or most of their channel so we can help share our influence with people who can benefit from the reselling of equipment. They feed us leads," McCall said. "So they created a kind of a virtuous cycle, because they're not competing with their channel and they're not competing with us. And they're making us happy and their channel happy, and they're growing."

In one engagement with a FishNet customer, NetScreen sold direct to the client because the company requested it, but the vendor then told FishNet to bill it for 15 percent of the deal, Fish said. "We actually sent them a bill, and they paid us for the margin," he said. "It's the first time I've ever had a manufacturer do that."

Conqwest's Drolet said Computer Associates International "has bent over backward" to ensure her success as a partner selling CA security products. "We're closing bigger deals with CA than with anyone else," she said.

Fledgling security vendors tend to be more channel-friendly than their established counterparts because they often ask solution providers for help in developing their channels, Fish said, citing Entercept Security Technologies, San Jose, Calif., as an example of a new vendor eager for channel input.

Another new kid on the block, Columbia, Md.-based intrusion-detection vendor Sourcefire, earned high marks from panelist Paul Rohmeyer, COO of Icons. "We think they get it: small company, good attitude," he said.

Vendors that are committed to the channel should create a compensation program for their direct-sales staff that incents them to work with solution providers, Drolet said. "It needs to be channel-neutral, channel-positive," she said.