Security Channel Chiefs: Should Solution Providers Go With Best-Of-Breed Or Platform Security?

It's becoming one of the top questions in security: Should solution providers choose so-called best-of-breed technologies for their customers or go with a platform security approach?

The answer isn't easy, security channel chiefs said. In a roundtable discussion with top security channel leaders held at XChange 2017 in Orlando, Fla., executives said there are benefits to both sides of the technology coin, although all said their vendor organization is driving a platform strategy.

"There are trade-offs on both sides," said Kevin Lozeau, director of channel marketing for Kaspersky Lab. "I think it depends on the customer, the size and the market."

[The State Of Security: CRN's 2017 Security Roundtable]

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Lozeau said Kaspersky has chosen to build its portfolio around a platform strategy, adding he believes that is the direction customers will look to move over the long term. However, he said there are significant benefits to both sides.

Sophos Vice President of Global Channels Kendra Krause agreed, saying she sees the difference in best-of-breed versus platform highlighted the most depending on the size of the organization. Krause said best-of-breed technology tends to provide a best-in-class product, but often comes with significantly more complexity, making it challenging for SMB or midmarket customers to manage. She said he sees more enterprise customers turning to best-of-breed for that reason. She said a platform-based approach lessens the complexity, but might not provide best-in-class technology across the entire stack.

Crowdstrike Vice President of Business Development, Alliances and Channels Matthew Polly said the trade-off between best-of-breed and platform opens a big door of opportunity for partners. In an ideal world, he said customers of all sizes want both best-of-breed and platform security. He said he sees many customers turning to solution providers to create those solutions for them, or engaging with MSPs to manage a more complex set of solutions.

"They want best-of-breed. They want to be able to have best-in-class products, but to be able to manage them from a single platform. … That's the way the partner steps in," Lozeau said. "They can eliminate some of that complexity for the customer."

Bryan Wiese, vice president and general manager of identity and access management at Denver-based solution provider Optiv Security, said he frequently hears from customers about the debate between best-of-breed and platform security. He said one trend Optiv is seeing to "close the gap" between the two sides is the push from many vendors to provide integration into their technologies over the past 18 months to two years.

"We're seeing much more of this happen," Wiese said of the integration. "I think this certainly does help close that gap. No longer is it about having to cobble stuff together."

With that integration, Wiese said customers can get the benefits of both platform and best-of-breed security. He said customers also won't get hit with as heavy of an integration cost if the vendors provide the integration in advance, allowing them to allocate that budget to more strategic security initiatives with partners.

Ken McCray, head of channels and operations for the Americas for McAfee, said partners also play a key role in helping customers make smart purchasing decisions. He said customers often do research before choosing solutions, but that partners play an important role in helping shape those decisions to fit their environment.

"I think the partner is an influencer," McCray said. "Our job, as a manufacturer, is to help that partner give that customer the right answer," he said.