Safety in numbers

It might be in the midst of being taken over by CPU giant Intel, but that isn’t distracting security vendor McAfee from making some important changes to its channel gameplan. The man overseeing that strategy is Alex Thurber, senior VP for worldwide channels and commercial sales.

Tags: Cisco Systems IncorporatedMcAfee IncorporationUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
Safety in numbers
By  Andrew Seymour Published  November 9, 2010

CME: You run McAfee’s channel business on a global basis. How long have you been in that position?

Alex Thurber: I was hired into McAfee just over a year ago to take over and manage the worldwide channels organisation. Our business almost entirely goes through the channel, other than a few direct accounts in the US and Western Europe. But certainly everything in this area, and what we call the emerging markets, is channel business. McAfee had been growing a strong direct sales force and using the channel primarily for fulfillment and so what my boss — and our CEO — realised is that to really grow the company they needed to develop a value added channel that could be out leading their business. I had spent nine years at Cisco in the channels organisation and before that I owned my own reseller business, so I have been in the channel about 20 years.

CME: Developing a value-added channel sounds like a big project. How much will it change McAfee’s philosophy?

Alex Thurber: The company definitely knows it needs to work with the channel — and more than 85% of our business does go through the channel today — but one of the things we have done internally is set up an advertising slogan of ‘Think Channel’ because we really are getting the company to focus on that, be it in manufacturing, engineering, finance, operations, sales, everybody. And it has taken over. We have already done quite a bit in the last year.

CME: Does that message extend to the Middle East as well or is a strong channel in place there anyway?

Alex Thurber: We were 100% channel here to begin with, but certainly one of the things we had struggled with as a company was when we acquired companies, such as Secure Computing, Foundstone and some of the others, we really didn’t have the channel strategy or the vision at the time to put together a truly integrated channel. One of the things I have been working on and my team has been working on is a very consistent channel model. It is value-based — so the more you invest in McAfee as a partner, the more we invest back in you — and there are very clear specialisations and technical requirements. Those are now global, so we have rolled them out everywhere. But we have always had a strong channel relationship here.

CME: The IT security sector is one of the most competitive in the industry. How does your channel proposition stand out from the crowd?

Alex Thurber: We are the largest independent security company in the world and we still only have 6% market share, so we can double the company and still be only at 10% of the market, which just means there is so much opportunity there. I think the opportunity really is to help our mutual customers learn the importance of end-to-end security — ‘McAfee Connected’ we call it now — and utilise the fact that we are the only manufacturer who has technologies in each of the 12 areas of security. It really goes from the desktop to the server to the end-point, through the whole network, and that’s a very powerful story as we explain it to the customers. Then I think our final secret sauce is something we call GTI — global threat intelligence — and this is a global network of systems, more than 150 million sensors, that pulls up information about everything that is going on from a security perspective, brings it back into our labs and allows our researchers to understand almost instantly what’s happening. We are unique in that.

CME: How satisfied are you with McAfee’s global channel coverage?

Alex Thurber: I think we have enough partners around the world, I am not sure it is always exactly the right partners. So one of the things we are really working on in this coming calendar year is this idea of partner preference. We are going to be much more focused on a fewer number of partners and become more relevant to them.

CME: One prominent issue in the software space surrounds annuity fees and the ability of the channel to service that business. What are you doing to ensure McAfee partners are taking care of renewals, rather than just doing a deal and then forgetting about it?

Alex Thurber: Last week in Las Vegas, we had our annual Focus Conference, which has always been an end-user conference, and this year we had two partner days at the beginning. We spent a lot of time talking about renewals and there are really two different types of annuity business that are available. The first is the classic ‘sell a licence and 12 months later renew it’, and we are working very hard to help our partners there, including sending out e-mails to the customer at 60 days, 30 days, 15 days, and always with a link to the partner who sold the deal originally. And then, if for some reason the customer doesn’t renew, after it expires we put a link to our online e-commerce site. But if they buy from there, we then still rebate that to the partner, so we give them back a split. The other is this whole area of SaaS — security as a service. And there you get into the monthly, almost automatic, renewal rates. Monthly recurring revenue is a wonderful thing for our partners.

CME: If you look at overall market volumes, the Middle East is still very small compared to other parts of the world. How significant is the region to McAfee’s global business?

Alex Thurber: The starting point is smaller, but the growth rates are so high and there really is so much opportunity to work with the partners and the customers here, and really help them not only understand the advantages of the internet, but the importance of being secure on the internet. And let’s be honest, there are some very big companies here that are very wealthy, whether it’s the petroleum or the financial industries, but I think we are now seeing lots of smaller companies blossoming — a real movement of entrepreneurialism that just contributes to giving our partners a huge opportunity.

CME: How concerned are you that partners may be reluctant to invest in McAfee because of uncertainty over the direction of the company due to the impending Intel takeover?

Alex Thurber: We have a very clear policy that we are in a quiet period right now and we really can’t talk about Intel at all. I will say that Intel has made a statement that they are going to keep this as a completely separate entity running on our own. I have made a multi-year commitment, our CEO has as well, so I would say to the partners that things are not going to change, other than get better.

CME: What is the split between McAfee’s consumer and commercial business these days? Where does the revenue come from?

Alex Thurber: It is about 40% consumer, 60% commercial. If you look at the three major segments — consumer, midmarket and enterprise — enterprise and consumer are big businesses, and that midmarket is not as big as it should be. My goal over the next few years is to make it equivalent to the others.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code