McAfee Polishes Channel Image

Speaking Thursday at a presentation for financial analysts in New York, McAfee executives said the security vendor's channel efforts are bearing fruit. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is close to completing a partner Web portal, and several new products due out over the next 12 months should spur new reseller opportunities, they said.

In the last nine months, McAfee added 2,500 new channel partners, and during the first quarter, the company saw a 35 percent year-over-year gain in channel bookings, said Kevin Weiss, executive vice president of field operations.

"Twenty-four months ago, we were a direct and indirect company. Today, we are an indirect company," Weiss said. McAfee provides direct sales and service to only 40 enterprise companies, and all other customers must have a reseller engaged for value-added solutions, he added. "A customer has to ask us and give us a good reason to be served directly. Otherwise, reps must find a partner to add value."

McAfee aims to transform its global partner portal, launched last year, into a "full-blown e-commerce platform" by the end of the year, according to Weiss. McAfee is currently working out the integration of the platform's SAP component, but when completed it will offer partner quoting and order status, as well as "take the cost out of the [partner] system for both McAfee and partners," he said.

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On the product front, early next year McAfee plans to partner with Cisco Systems to deliver an offering dubbed Policy Enforcer, said McAfee President Gene Hodges. The Policy Enforcer will work with the McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator and Cisco switching technology to act as a network-edge sentinel that allows access only to clients that meet security policy criteria.

The system will scan PCs and wireless devices and apply security assessment technology from Foundstone, which McAfee acquired last year, to determine if a device meets security policy. Once a client device has been scanned, Policy Enforcer will quarantine the device in a secure subnetwork using a McAfee IntruShield VLAN, or the system will move the device to a remediation network that instructs the user how to cleanse the device to an acceptable level, Hodges said.

Also in the works is the McAfee Content Security Appliance. Currently in beta and scheduled to ship in the third quarter of 2005, the appliance will provide Web and e-mail security plus prevent spyware at the network edge, according to Hodges. As many as three versions are planned. One, a secure Internet gateway with integrated content security, will include antivirus, antispam, content/URL filtering and anti-phishing capabilities. The other two appliances, a secure Web gateway and a secure messaging gateway, address more specific Web and e-mail security, he said.

"These [appliances] will be faster than the current hot box from Fortinet," Hodges said, adding that the appliances will scan for as many as 104,000 attacks.

In addition, McAfee is slated to introduce Intrushield NG, a unified threat-management product. Due for release next spring, Intrushield NG will be a carrier-grade appliance with throughput of up to 12Gbps in its first iteration, scalable to 100Gbps. Plans call for IntruShield NG to initially offer intrusion prevention, firewall, network antivirus and antispyware functions, but later iterations could include URL filtering, content filtering, network firewall and VPN capabilities and be fast enough to sit on a service provider back end, Hodges said.

As McAfee fortifies its channel and product lineup, it must face-off with a bigger security competitor in Symantec, which is diversifying its offerings with the pending acquisition of storage vendor Veritas Software. Yet McAfee Chairman and CEO George Samenuk said at the presentation that his company's focus on security will give it an edge over Symantec in that market.

"You're looking at a company that's not moving into storage, not moving into database technology. We like security," Samenuk said.

Still, that doesn't mean McAfee isn't exploring other ways to grow, Samenuk noted. "We are looking at additional acquisitions as well as growing internally," he said, adding that any acquisitions likely would focus on technology that "bolts on to the existing McAfee architecture."