Microsoft Plans Security Alliance

Informally dubbed the Partner Security Support Alliance, the program is targeted at OEMs and partners that have earned Microsoft's security solutions competency and is designed to cut customer support costs and improve partner responsiveness to potential threats, said sources familiar with the plans.

As part of the pilot program, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, for example, will receive faster access to information about new threats and updates, and additional access to content and support resources, including Microsoft's security engineers, if necessary.

While some partners that earn revenue through security services may look askance at such a program, a number of partners interviewed by CRN view it as a value-added service that will enable them to focus on other service opportunities.

Greg Gatzke, principal with ZAG Technical Services, a Microsoft Gold Partner in San Jose, Calif., said such a program is "definitely" of interest to him. "Security is something that you have to be ever-vigilant on, and the more advanced information you can receive, the better you will be at it," said Gatzke.

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One security solution provider applauded Microsoft's efforts. "This [program] is currently not of interest to us but may be one to watch as Microsoft starts to define itself in the security market as a company that prevents threats instead of one that creates them," said Todd O'Bert, president of Productive Online, Minneapolis.

Microsoft is keeping details under wraps until the program is finalized, yet executives say it is planning to require partners to gain industry-standard certifications such as one from the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium.

"Becoming a Gold partner and qualifying for the security competency have done a lot, but Microsoft certifications are not enough and we will be adding industry-respected certification," said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the Security Business and Technology Unit at Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. The program is tentatively designed as multitiered for Gold partners, but this has not been finalized.