RSA Mulling Tighter Authorization Requirements

Bedford, Mass.-based RSA doesn't currently require sales authorization, but partners who undergo sales and technical training get higher status in its SecurWorld partner program as well as benefits such as deal registration and access to rebate programs, said Michael Ross, area vice president for North American channels.

To reward partners who've already made this commitment, RSA is considering requiring all partners to get authorization in order to sell products that require higher levels of sales and technical training, including Sign-On Manager, Access Manager (formerly ClearTrust), Keon, and Federated Identity Manager, Ross said.

"We think this will benefit channel partners who have obtained sales authorization, and end users will also benefit because they'll be buying from resellers who are more qualified to do pre-sale analysis going into the selling process," he said.

RSA will also require sales authorization for partners that want to sell products from Network Intelligence, the security event management vendor that RSA parent company EMC acquired in September, according to Ross. "Network Intelligence [previously] had strict requirements to resell their products, including sales authorization, and RSA plans to roll that into the program as well," Ross said.

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However, RSA doesn't plan to require sales authorization for its SecurID authentication product because most partners are familiar with it and the majority of SecurID business stems from renewals and upgrades, Ross noted.

The sales authorization changes have yet to be finalized, said Ross, adding that RSA will officially announce any changes sometime in Q1 or Q2.

Solution providers welcomed the idea of RSA implementing sales authorization and said it would help reduce conflict between channel partners.

"They're beginning to realize they probably should build their channel around the underlying business they have, and to do that, they need to protect partners with deal registration, extra discounts and greater distribution of leads," said Tom Gobeille, president and CEO of Network Computing Architects, a Bellevue, Wash.-based RSA partner.

There's a trend underway in which some vendors are looking for ways to reduce the size of their channels, and one way to achieve this is to put certification tracks in place to ensure that technical staff is properly trained, said Bill Calderwood, president of The Root Group, a Boulder, Colo.-based solution provider. "In some ways, I am a proponent of this because it keeps other solution providers from cherry picking deals," he said.

Babak Pasdar, founder and CTO of igxglobal, a Rocky Hill, Conn.-based solution provider, said it's important for RSA to take steps to reduce channel conflict. "Thinning out the channel ranks is part of the challenge RSA has because their technology is fairly ubiquitous," he said.

However, Ross insists that downsizing RSA's channel wouldn't be the goal of adding sales authorization. "We're not looking to decrease the number of partners, but to increase the number of partners who sell a broader spectrum of products," he said.