Symantec Pushes Partners To Reduce Line Card

The vendor's channel team will try to convince partners that also work with other security vendors to de-emphasize or drop partnerships with those rivals and focus more on Symantec, said Randy Cochran, Symantec's vice president of channels sales for the Americas.

Cochran said he planned to encourage partners with multiple vendor relationships to re-evaluate and reduce the number of competing vendors on their line card, in an effort to "drive tighter alignment" with partners dedicated to increasing business for Symantec.

"We're getting to partners that have certifications and specializations. We're telling them to 'reduce your line card, you're carrying too much,'" Cochran said. "'When are you really going to become the trusted adviser?' Choice becomes confusion."

So far, Symantec execs said that the move to get partners to eliminate competing vendors is not an official company directive. However, executives are currently discussing ways to motivate partners to consolidate their vendor partners, or maintain an exclusive partnership with Symantec. Rewards or incentives for partners who "invested in Symantec" could be in the form of more elite certifications or specializations "than normal partners," Cochran said.

Sponsored post

"In tough economic times, it's less about the breadth and more about how good you are in those spaces," he said. "Pressure is not the right word," he added. "It's a partnership."

For those partners that continued to maintain a full line card or challenged the company's initiative, Cochran said, "We'll have to evaluate if the partnership is worth having at that point. I'm not going to tell someone how to run their business."

Cochran's assertions were met with mixed emotions from channel partners.

Many partners said that tough economic times ultimately would require solution providers to focus on a minimal number of vendors and hone their craft with an in-depth knowledge of that vendor's products in order to stay competitive.

Steven Weeks, president and CEO of British Columbia-based Netcetera Consulting, said that Symantec's drive to eliminate competing vendors from its partners' line cards reduces competition for his own business by weeding out less dedicated partners. And going the "single vendor" route is something Netcetera has been doing all along, he said.

"We pick what we think is the best, learn it inside out and go with it," Weeks said."Our chances of closing the business are much higher. We've invested in that training. We just know it really well."

Other partners say that Symantec's initiative "makes sense" for some small solution providers that would have a hard time keeping up with multiple vendors.

"If we sold 10 different product lines, trying to stay up on all the ins and outs of those would just be overwhelming," said Gary Cannon, president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Advanced Internet Security.

The decision to tighten the reins on partners is something that has been in the works for the past six months, but was not officially stated, some partners said.

"We have definitely noticed it in the channel," said David Sockol, president of Emagined Security, based in San Carlos, Calif. "There are less exceptions being made for partners. Partners are being held to the letter of the partnership law in order to make sure they meet their obligations to support Symantec."

However, Sockol said that Symantec's squeeze on partners' line cards would give the company the ability to provide high-volume solution providers like Emagined with reward incentives and certifications, and allow them to "take advantage of the benefits that are out there in more challenging times."

"For an organization that has done just about everything under the sun, it's definitely put us in a better position to be able to compete when there are less folks out there just trying to hold the Symantec line card," Sockol said. "Fewer individuals or organizations are trying to go after the same business. It's forcing them to choose where the value is."

Eric Anderson, CTO of Netanium Network Security, based in North Chelmsford, Mass., said that he understood the need for Symantec to consolidate and focus on the partners who "have treated them well," but added that some of the smaller VARs that based their business model around a wide array of security offerings would probably be most affected by the company's reinvigorated focus on single-vendor partners.

"(Multiple-vendor small VARs) are probably not selling much anyway. I'm sure it will hurt them," Anderson said."I don't think this [initiative] is unique to Symantec. I imagine that they have a large number of inactive partners."

Dave Gilden, COO of Tampa, Fla.-based Acuity Solutions, said Symantec's emphasis on its single vendor partners would be challenging for partners who previously sold for noncompeting vendors but now sell for a competitor as the result of an acquisition -- such as the Symantec-Veritas acquisition that merged two different technologies.

"Vendors didn't overlap in the past. Now they do because of some kind of acquisition. That's what we've dealt with. What was a noncompeting vendor is a competing vendor this year because of an acquisition that (Symantec) made," Gilden said. "That's where the rubber meets the road, and that's where there'll be some challenges in seeing this through."

Meanwhile, other partners said Symantec's plan to encourage VARs to reduce their line card would make partners less competitive by making them reliant on one vendor and decreasing their ability to give their customers a choice.

"It's all about choice. It's not about their bottom line. It's about our customers' choice," said Darrel Bowman, CEO of Tacoma, Wash.-based "They're the Titanic. They better watch out. There's an iceberg out there."