CRN Interview: Trend Micro's Lane Bess

As president of North America operations for Trend Micro, Lane Bess is rolling out a new product strategy that has necessitated changes to the company's channel. In an interview with Editor in Chief Michael Vizard, Bess explains the rationale behind the changes to the company's product strategy and the changes made to the company's premium partner program.

CRN: Historically, security has diverged around protecting the network and then dealing with content-oriented attacks such as viruses. Your most recent product initiative takes the battle against viruses out to the edge of the network and beyond by employing appliances. What's driving that product strategy?

BESS: I view this as the next wave of growth for our industry. A lot of companies are taking it from a standpoint of intrusion prevention. But really it's network security management, too. It's a blend. We find ourselves making an open acknowledgment that you're not going to stop a lot of these worms, so the issue is becoming containment, [and] a lot of that gets down into the network architecture. This really is requiring us to think in terms of how to stop attacks at the layer 3 level of the network.

CRN: How does this change the dynamics between network products and security products?

BESS: It's really necessary to give a much clearer picture to the network and security people within the companies with regard to what solution best fits their network architecture. I think there's going to be a lot more attention on when to buy boxes or software and where to deploy them.

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CRN: What does that mean in terms of how the industry as a whole needs to respond to security threats?

BESS: The industry needs to get together and figure out exactly how these come together in a cost-effective way that solves the problem with the same level of comfort and containment. It's actually forcing the different players in the industry %85 to work together.

CRN: Security vendors have historically argued a lot over software vs. appliance solutions. Given the volume of threats, is this a relevant discussion anymore?

BESS: The ability for any one company or technology to make a claim is disappearing. We at Trend Micro have recognized there is an appliance component and thus have had to rethink our view toward appliances. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer. It's going to be complex and it's going to entail a combination of understanding the networking aspect as well as the software component.

CRN: How does all this play out in the channel?

BESS: This is why we made some of the changes in our channel program. When we were [developing] our new products, we saw that the composition of Premium partners we had might never really be able to reach into this new space. So we did some culling to identify those that were most capable and effective on the security solutions. The growth of our Premium channel partner will come through those that understand the networking capability and, in many cases, that involves more focus toward appliance-type VARs.

CRN: So by culling, you mean some of those Premium partners were migrated down to another level?

BESS: Through the process, we've tried to maintain and keep them whole as possible and also offer the opportunity that they can make it back into the Premium program through the training available. We saw an interesting trend %85 where some of our longer-term Premium partners were not investing in growing their base business, but were benefiting in a disproportionate way [by] using that discount advantage to essentially win business and, more importantly, fund the bringing on of other products. We think we've done a good job in identifying the right subset of the existing Premium partners. We think we've migrated the former Premiums into a program that allows them to be successful, and they'll continue to get renewal business.

CRN: How much effort will you put behind certifications going forward?

BESS: We're really focused in terms of our certification development. With the new products coming out, we've got to make it valid by having the proper certification. When it comes to certification, if you have Microsoft or Cisco certification, it means something. But what is there today for security certification? In some collaborative effort with others, there has got to be some kind of a measure of certification in the security arena that holds that same kind of badge of merit that some of the other networking-type certifications that we all know so well. I don't know that any one company can drive that, but this is where I do believe that some of the industry players do need to come together.