Kaspersky Lab Retools Channel Program, Focuses On Virtualization, Storage

Kaspersky Lab is rolling out a more formalized approach to its three-tiered partner program with revenue and business planning requirements for the company's top- performing partners.

Kaspersky will conduct more thorough business planning with platinum and gold-tiered partners and provide more funding for marketing, and front- and back-end incentive rebates, said Kaspersky channel chief John Murdock, a former Juniper Networks executive who was named vice president of channel sales last June. In addition to new revenue goals, the security vendor also is enticing partners to bolster their technical competency by rewarding partners for achieving technical badges under some new technical specializations.Those include endpoint, virtualization, mobility and managed and professional services.

"We've always had a medal partner program structure, but it has been loosely defined and fully wrapped together in a consistent structure globally," Murdock told CRN. "We're now putting in some really good incentives to drive the virtualization and some of the larger deal sizes."

[Related: Kaspersky Lab Hires Sales Veteran To Bolster Enterprise Push]

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The security vendor is hosting its North American Partner Conference at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Miami this week, inviting nearly 100 engaged partners to speak with senior-level executives, including CEO Eugene Kaspersky, to discuss the security vendor's product road map and channel program improvements. The company has been focused on growing its midmarket and enterprise customer base over the last year, and has announced deals with large manufacturers and financial services firms.

"We've had a great year of success with much of the growth we're seeing in the midmarket," Murdock said. "Small-business growth is still important to us, but we are putting our focus going into midmarket and enterprise and adding resources to support the momentum there."

Murdock said Kaspersky is committed to maintaining a 100 percent partner focus and a strong deal registration program while adding resources to support lead- generation activities. Deal registrations were up nearly 16 percent year-over-year in 2014, and VAR recruitment numbers were up by 40 percent year-over-year with new VAR partner and sales rep recruits contributing nearly 10 percent of B2B sales in 2014.

Michael Goldstein, CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based LAN Infotech, was at the Partner Conference this week and said via email that the conversation centered around emerging threat landscape. In particular, he said Kaspersky predicated the next wave of targeted malware to hit smart TVs, as well as evaluated the threat landscape between Apple and Microsoft.

Goldstein said the new program is "extremely promising." He said the new traditional medallion levels, as well as online sales and engineering training, in particular, were "great."

Goldstein said the new Kaspersky channel program is a sign the company is "really looking to move up the sales chain as compared to other products."

In addition to more channel sales reps, the company hired Kim Stevens as its new director of channel sales. Stevens, a sales and channel veteran, will help oversee partner strategy and partner sales performance, and will report to Murdock. She was previously at NEC, where she oversaw North American alliances, sales and marketing activities. Stevens also worked in various sales and channel management roles at Acronis, Cisco Systems, EMC and IBM.

In addition to its offering to support secure server virtualization environments, Kaspersky Lab launched a distributed denial-of-service protection service, which uses sensor software to redirect packet headers to its servers, scrubbing the traffic of unwanted packets and identifying a snapshot of normal traffic.

"Kaspersky is making some very positive changes, and not only in their partner program. They also appear to be pushing into virtualization and storage, as related to AV, with a new offering at the machine or root level rather than the OS level. This will position them to compete with the likes of VMware and Microsoft," said Scott Fluegge, president and general manager of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based JDL Technologies, via email. "From our perspective, as JDL Technologies continues to build out our own private cloud offering, Kaspersky's new initiatives will further enable us to provide competitive, best of breed solutions for our clients."

Sarah Kuranda contributed to this story.