Distributors Eye Growing Network Security Market

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Distribution executives are seeing an increasing need for security solutions as growing numbers of companies look to do more business online and employ mobile solutions for efficiency. Many times, companies aren't even aware they are at risk of a network intrusion. In the past, a few passwords and some virus software may have been enough to keep the network secure. But those days are over. Today's intruders -- both internal and external -- are getting smarter, and companies should be creating comprehensive security strategies and long-term plans before they ever purchase new equipment or expand existing networks.

Security strategies could include firewalls, passwords, VPNs, authentication, third-party security management and even biometric devices. Additionally, companies should be considering enhanced security in a variety of scenarios, including network upgrades, increasing business online and deploying mobile solutions.

With a growing need for viable solutions and knowledgeable security experts, VARs are finding they can make a solid business out of network security and consulting or use it to generate more revenue from their existing business. State and local government integrator DynTek, Irvine, Calif., has partnered with Westcon, a division of Westcon Group, for many years because of the security products and solutions it offers from top vendors, such as Nokia and Check Point. "[Westcon] carries a very nice subset of products that happens to fit into our security business," says Brett Martin, vice president of marketing at DynTek.

Security, in fact, is one of Westcon's three focus areas, next to convergence (IP telephony) and storage, company executives say. Westcon has developed a major security plan that it developed in collaboration with several major vendors. The plan identifies key security solutions, breaks them down and helps identify profitable opportunities for VARs.

Westcon offers training, certification and other technical and marketing resources to help VARs gain the expertise needed to start a security business. "Our goal is to make our customers as valuable as they can be to their customers," says Anthony Daley, general manager of Westcon. The distributor also offers professional services that can be performed on behalf of the VAR, either at a customer's location or to help seal a deal. "We'll get on the phone with our VARs and their customers, and we can become an extension of their business," Daley says.

Other distributors, such as Comstor, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, say they also have the products, training, certifications and resources to help VARs meet their customers' network security needs. Comstor, Westcon Group's Cisco-based distributor, recently announced a comprehensive, layered security approach that enables VARs to generate higher margins by providing a multi-level threat deterrence, combined with training and technical support.

Comstor's strategy offers a security solution for each layer of the network, integrating indentity, monitoring, perimeter security, policy management and data privacy. With a keen understanding of threats at each level, Comstor works with VARs to build multivendor security solutions that are based on Cisco's SAFE blueprint principles. All vendors in the solution are Cisco Ecosystem or AVVID partners.

"What Comstor is providing is expertise to the VARs, so they can provide that expertise to their customers," says Joe Heinzen, Comstor's vice president of engineering and professional services. Comstor also offers just-in-time resources and professional services, including security management, that can be outsourced to the distributor and performed on behalf of the VAR.

Heinzen believes Comstor has a better understanding of network security than its broadline competitors because the distributor only focuses on network sales. "We live and breath this technology," he says. "We've got to be better at this because it's all we're doing."

On the flipside, Ingram Micro executives believe consulting and services, such as a deployment, training, upgrades and maintenance, are the sweet spot for VARs in the security market. "We've indentified [security] as a profitable opportunity for our customers," says Lori Snow, vice president of marketing at Ingram Micro. Distributors, in general, are seeing double-digit growth in security sales, she says.

Ingram Micro has created a go-to-market strategy for VARs looking to build a security business. The distributor assists VARs with training and certifications, help-desk functions, sales tools and market research. Ingram Micro also beefed up its offering with several new vendors, including eEye Digital, Internet Security Solutions (ISS), and an exclusive agreement with firewall and VPN vendor NetScreen. The company is also conducting security events for VARs in July, August and September.

Tech Data recently created a specialized business unit (SBU) to address the security market and related solutions. The concept is to be a single provider of cross-vendor IT solutions. The distributor collaborated heavily with Symantec to build a platform for the security SBU, create a strategy for VARs entering the market segment and address the overall market opportunity.

Tech Data has been driving the security opportunity to VARs in its enterprise program through training opportunities and field sales support. The distributor created security "road maps" for its SMB-focused TechSelect network. Tech Data is also looking at creating a managed security offering with a third-party provider. "The entire category is gaining a lot of attention and a lot of press," says Roy Appelbaum, vice president and general manager of product marketing/networking and storage at Tech Data. "It's becoming a bigger overall concern."

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