Partners Cautious About Websense-SurfControl Deal

Websense announced the $400 million cash deal on April 26th, clearing the way for it to leverage SurfControl's position in the SMB segment of the content filtering market. Its shareholders approved the agreement on August 16th, which is expected to enter into force on October 3rd. Websense has promised to cut $60 million in the first 12 months following the acquisition, and has scheduled an analyst call to discuss its integration plans on October 10th.

Websense bought data leakage prevention developer Port Authority for $90 million in 2006.

While Websense remains legally restrained from publicly discussing its post-acquisition plans, several current SurfControl partners report receiving private assurances that it would not interfere with existing account relationships. They also expect the release of a roadmap for the development of an integrated parter program early next week.

Though unable to confirm or deny such reports, a Websense spokesperson told CRN that "both companies are 100 percent focused on the channel, and we have no reason to take any accounts from SurfControl partners and give them to Websense partners. We're hoping that our channel partners will leverage the the new value the joint company brings and increase their business."

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Much of the vendors' partner communities can best be described as cautiously optimistic about the deal. "I think that, overall, it's going to be a net gain to Websense, " says Peter Bybee, president and CEO of San Diego-based solution provider Network Vigilance. "As long as the management team executes within a reasonable timeframe, then I think they're going to be able to retain most of the customers and most of the resellers."

"From a partner program perspective and a partner type perspective, they've got a real an opportunity to compliment each other," according to Tiffani Bova, a Research Director with Gartner who has worked with both companies. "But with anything like this it's going to mean change for the partners, which always brings anxiety.'"

Among those solution providers who have developed relationships with both companies, the potential upside is considerably greater. "From my perspective it's a good thing because we have relationships with both, and Trend Micro, which is really too many relationships for us in that space," says Phil Mogavero of Data Systems Worldwide in Woodland Hills, Ca. "We won't have to worry about pitching two products; we can focus on one manufacturer, one reseller agreement, one set of rules."

While hesitant to publicly criticize the vendors, some partners are less optimistic about the deal, and at least one competitor hopes to capitalize on what it sees as an opportunity to gain some ground on the two Web filtering leaders.

"Some part of the channel chose Surf Control because they didn't want to work with Websense, and now they don't have that choice," says Eric Lundbohm, vice president of marketing at rival Web filter vendor 8e6 technologies. "We're expecting to get three things out of this deal: staff, partners, and customers. The end users aren't even really aware of the deal yet, but we're already talking to resellers and employees who are looking for the door."

David Raikow is a freelance reporter.