McAfee Channel Chief Says New Company Is Committed To Being Partner-Centric

McAfee will be getting a new name and new ownership, but channel partners shouldn’t expect to see any significant changes in how they work with the security vendor, Senior Vice President of Global Channel Operations Richard Steranka said.

Intel Security started down a path to change the way it works with partners in 2015, rolling out multiple program iterations that emphasize partner enablement and a full, integrated platform security product portfolio. Steranka said partners could expect McAfee to continue down that same strategy under its new name, especially as it looks to add more products to its portfolio.

"The changes that we've made in our partner program and our partner landscape has been driven by our overall strategy and that strategy remains intact," Steranka said. "What we will have is a different name, but all things internally remain the same."

[Related: Intel Security Re-Emerges As McAfee, A $2 Billion Security Company]

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McAfee, formerly Intel Security, has separated from parent company Intel through a $4.2 billion deal with private equity firm TPG Capital. Intel will retain a 49 percent stake in McAfee, which as re-assumed the name it held before its acquisition by Intel in 2010.

While he already considered the company to be channel-friendly, Steranka said the split would allow McAfee to adapt to partner needs and evolving market trends more quickly. He said McAfee can now make partner- and strategy-based decisions around its unique requirements, rather than having to fit them to the needs of a larger parent company.

"There are always opportunities to continue to strengthen the relationships with partners … I think it's not as much that we have more to do, but I think if you are truly a partner-centric company you always have to evolve with the needs of your partners. We're committed to doing that," Steranka said.

Steranka said the partner program would get a new name, from the Intel Security Partner Program to the McAfee Partner Program, but the element of the program itself and the executives on the channel team will "remain the same." However, he said partner can expect to see some improvements as the company splits from the Intel infrastructure and operations and can redefine its systems. For example, he said McAfee is making investments in configuration, price and quotation infrastructure, and Salesforce automation.

"We have had some complexity in our business as a result of trying to fit a software sales model … in a model where silicon chips are sold to OEMs. It hasn't always been the easiest fit," Steranka said.

Steranka said McAfee would particularly be investing in branding and marketing, including through partners. That includes a full marketing campaign around the company's Focus events, as well as a significant ongoing MDF investment with partners, he said.

"A big priority from a channel perspective is the branding of the company. This really is a rebirth of cybersecurity's best-known brand, and we have to take advantage of that with our partner community," Steranka said. "We have a fair bit of work ahead of us as we get our new brand look and feed into the market and opportunity."

"I think it's nothing but positive for them and their place in the marketplace," said Andy Welsh, vice president of product management at Denver, Colo.-based Optiv Security. Welsh said the branding changes to embrace the McAfee name would also help clear up any confusion in the market. Welsh said he sees the split as "nothing but positive, both for them and for us."

"I expect our business will grow with them," said Jeremy Samide, CEO of North Olmsted, Ohio-based Stealthcare. Samide , said his company has remained an active McAfee partner and has been preparing for the split for quite some time: "We're excited just to see the direction McAfee goes in and to be able to leverage that relationship and leverage those relationships with our clients."

"We have had a very good relationship with them. I don't think that will change," said Mark Miller, vice president of sales South Central for M&S Technologies, a Kudelski Security company.

However, Miller added that he did hope that becoming a standalone security vendor would allow McAfee to invest in research and development and move ahead of the competition with new products and a renewed focus on strategy.

"I think it's a good thing. I do think the work down the road is what is going to be important and how they execute … It seemed that they were stagnant for a while … I'm hoping without Intel holding them back, they will be able to catch up," Miller said. "I do believe they can be the No. 1 security vendor."