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Kaspersky Examines Allowing Partners To White-Label Products As Managed Services Gain Traction

As the market evolves and traditional VARs adopt MSP or MSSP business models, they've grown accustomed to having white-labeling available as an option, says Kaspersky's Jason Stein.

Kaspersky Lab has engaged in preliminary discussion to consider, for the first time, allowing MSPs or other types of channel partners to white-label the vendor's products and services.

The Moscow-based security software developer has historically been resistant to allowing solution providers to pass off Kaspersky-made goods as their own out of fear of hurting their brand. But with partners advocating that white-labeling would increase their revenue and provide tremendous value, Kaspersky has grown more comfortable with the idea, according to Jason Stein, vice president of channel for North America.

"We're open to it," Stein told CRN. "It doesn't mean that it's going to happen overnight. And it doesn't mean it's going to happen for everybody. I think we want to be strategic in the types of partners that we're looking to do that for."

[RELATED: Kaspersky Lab Sues U.S. Department Of Homeland Security Over Government Sales Ban]

As the market evolves and traditional VARs move into more of a managed services or managed security services model, Stein said they've grown accustomed to seeing white-label software offered by some of their other vendor partners. Kaspersky therefore wants to be open to making the changes needed for partners to be as profitable and successful as they possibly can, Stein said.

The solution provider who raised the idea during a question-and-answer session at Kaspersky Lab's Trusted Advisors Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz. said white-labeling would help channel partners avoid the whole geopolitical conversation.

Kaspersky has experienced nearly a year of pushback over alleged ties to the Russian government, which the company has vehemently denied. The company sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December over the Trump administration's ban on the use of Kaspersky's cybersecurity software within federal agencies.

Stein, however, said the consideration being given to white-labeling is all about making it easier for the channel to partner with Kaspersky and isn't specific to the geopolitical situation by any means.

"There's certainly some type of avoidance of the geopolitical [situation] with that, but more importantly, it's for partners to be able to extend their brand to every layer that their customer would see," said Michael Knight, president and CTO of Greenville, S.C.-based Encore Technology Group.

Knight said white-labeling can help MSPs or MSSPs to create a more unified brand experience regardless of the technology that's being delivered. This allows the service provider to maintain their brand as the focus and have their customers look to them.

Encore Technology has done some white-labeling when the platform being used isn't all that well-known, meaning that inclusion of a vendor's name would provide little value. Conversely, however, Knight said the Kaspersky brand is very well-known and very powerful.

"For us, we see a ton of value in partnering with Kaspersky and people knowing and seeing that brand," Knight said. "We like the visibility that Kaspersky brings to the table."

White-labeling could be an intriguing prospect, said Stefan Zauchenberger ICE Systems, though he's not sure how customers would feel about not knowing where the security technology they're using actually came from.

Larger cybersecurity partners could likely get away with white-labeling security technology and having their own muscle behind it, said Zauchenberger, president and manager partner of the Kansas City-based solution provider. But small MSPs will often find that they need the name and brand of a major OEM behind them to gain traction in the marketplace, according to Zauchenberger.

Any decision about white-labeling would be made at a global rather than a regional level, said Stein, noting that Kaspersky has traditionally done white-labeling from a business-to-consumer - but not a business-to-business - standpoint. Although Kaspersky doesn't wish to close the door on any type of partner that might want to do white-labeling, he said solution providers with an MSP- or MSSP-type model would probably be more interested in the opportunity.

"People have been asking us for years," Stein said. "We haven't been as interested in allowing our partners to do that. Now we're just assessing and seeing if it makes sense."

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