Fortinet Dumps Synnex And Westcon

Security appliance vendor Fortinet has dumped distributors Synnex and Westcon in favor of distribution twin towers Ingram Micro and Tech Data.

Fortinet Vice President of Channel Sales Michael Valentine said the distribution changes are part of an all out assault to attract "more and much better" VARs to upstage a long list of competitors from Cisco to Checkpoint to Sonicwall.

Valentine said he is interested in exploiting both Ingram Micro's Venturetech community and Tech Data's TechSelect group of elite VARs. "As a world class supplier of security product, we believe we should be dealing with world class companies and logistics partners," he said of the move to Ingram and Tech Data. "We're proud to partner with them. I know we're absolutely going to get the attention we need from them."

Fortinet also eliminated distributors Securematics of Santa Clara, Calif. and WAV of Aurora, Ill. Both Alternative Technologies and FineTec remain Fortinet distribution partners.

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Valentine said the distributors being terminated will carry the Fortinet product line until Jan. 5. He said VARs should continue to see the same margins,

The distribution changes are accompanied by a revamped channel program that includes new sales quotas for partners and a beefed up deal registration program. Fortinet is also embarking on an aggressive direct marketer reseller recruitment effort as part of a bid to break out beyond its PC Connection partnership.

The new partner recruitment initiative is being backed up with territory account managers and systems engineers that have doubled to more than 100 from just 50 over the last several months. Fortinet said it has grown its Americas Channel Sales team by a whopping 120 percent over the last year. What's more, Fortinet has tripled the size of its channel organization in the last five months, said Valentine.

"We believe our product is second to none in the industry," said Valentine, speaking about the broad expansion of the company's channel strategy. "I will pit my technology up against any of the big boys. The VARs are going to want to do business with us. We will no longer be denied."

The program changes include for the first time mandatory minimum sales commitments for the top classes of Fortinet partners. For example, the top Platinum designation, which includes a dedicated account field rep, now requires a $250,000 annual sales commitment and the Gold designation, which includes an inside or outside account rep, and now carries a $100,000 annual revenue commitment. The Silver class designation requires no annual revenue commitment and carries with it inside account rep coverage.

The new channel initiative also includes deal registration on all enterprise class product sales (Fortigate 300 Series and above) of $15,000 or more. "The old deal registration program got abused and diluted and became ineffective," he said. "We're now using new software tools. There is a whole new story around deal registration."

Valentine said he is confident Fortinet can attract new small, medium business partners, direct marketer reseller (DMR) giants and at the same time maintain robust margins for enterprise VARs with strict policies like minimum advertised pricing (MAP) and deal registration. "The enterprise VAR is the cornerstone for enterprise growth for this company," he said. "We need to protect the enterprise VAR." Valentine said Fortinet has a product line that runs the gamut from $40,000 appliances to $500,000 plus appliances.

NEXT: VARs High Five Fortinet

Fortinet VARs said they are excited and pumped up by the changes, particulary the chance to buy from distribution giant Ingram Micro.

"For us being able to buy through Ingram means we can use our Ingram credit line," said Alex Zaltsman, cofounder and managing partner of Exigent Technologies LLC, a Morristown, N.J. Fortinet partner. "We have the most leverage with Ingram." Zaltsman said he has partnered with Ingram, his number one distributor, for the last decade.

"I am pretty excited about it," said Zaltsman of the Fortinet charge. "They have a new strategy and a great product for the SMB market. It's a good value for small business customers in terms of features and price."

Zaltsman said he is aiming to drive his installed base of Cisco firewalls to the Fortinet product. "We want our customers to centralize antivirus and Web filtering onto one Fortinet appliance," he said. "That is a key value proposition with Fortinet."

Meyer Ben-Reuven, CEO of Chelsea Technologies of New York, a Fortinet partner for the last three years, said he is also interested in moving his business to Ingram. "Ingram is our main distributor and has been very good for us," he said. "I've been asking them for a long time to get Fortinet and it's finally going to happen!"

Ben-Reuven said, for his part, he is not exactly thrilled that Fortinet is expanding its VAR base, but he conceded that it's part of the company's growing reputation as a security vendor. "Now everyone knows Fortinet," he said. "It's a natural progression for them."

Ben-Reuven said Fortinet has done a good job of bundling its security software licenses directly into the cost of the appliance so he doesn't have to have separate purchasing orders. "It lowers the cost of sales," he said.

As for the competition with possible new DMR competitors that carry Fortinet, Ben-Reuven said he is not concerned. "They are not in front of the clients like we are," he said. "Who's going to install it for the client? What counts is do I have a solution for the client that I can provide better than anyone else."