Security Business

The IT security market continues to simmer nicely creating perfect reseller opportunities

Tags: ComGuard FZ LLCComguardMcAfee IncorporationSymantec CorporationTrend Micro Middle East
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Security Business Higher profits in the security segment should always follow a move away from basic box shifting, say Mobasseri.
By  Piers Ford Published  August 28, 2011

The increasing popularity of software-focused virtualised infrastructures and the looming concept of cloud computing both bring specific security challenges. So, too, does the proliferation of personal devices across the business IT environment, blurring the boundaries of management and responsibility.

At the same time, high-profile data breaches are focusing corporate minds on the measures they need to take to protect the enterprise from a constant barrage of electronic security threats.

Market analyst RNCOS estimates that digital security, which has shown strong recent annual growth of 20%, will be worth $720 million across the region by the end of 2012. Not surprisingly, vendors are competing aggressively through the channel to capture significant chunks of a market that can only continue to expand.

"Security as a whole continues to be a major driving force with most organisations, and events such as the recent Sony Playstation data loss have only served to strengthen the focus by enterprises on their security infrastructure," says John Andrews, director of marketing MEA & APAC at security distributor Computerlinks.

According to Andrews, this level of visibility is boosting demand for layered security solutions that protect the perimeter and core of the corporate network, as IT purchasers try to keep one step ahead of the threats - a challenge that is further complicated by the rise of mobile access to corporate systems. As a result, organisations are having to examine their access policies using multi-vendor tool sets to control remote access, wireless connectivity, bandwidth prioritisation and application usage tools.

"Mobile computing is the nightmare scenario for CIOs and IT security personnel," agrees Sushma Kajaria, channel development manager, MMEA, at vendor Trend Micro.

"Gone are the days of highly controlled network infrastructures managed by layers of perimeter security. The advent of mobile computing has changed the discussions around perimeter security. When the device is mobile, it's working through the cloud. Clearly, the solution is to have cloud security as an integral part of the infrastructure. This means that whatever security solution an organisation has, it must have a strong cloud component to support mobile computing."

Few organisations have the skills in house to manage these increasingly diverse and complex security environments, with the result that demand for comprehensive support packages and outsourced solutions has never been higher, Kajaria suggests.

In these buoyant conditions, specialist security vendors are looking to forge ever-closer ties with the channel - partly in an effort to protect their products from the grey market, an inevitable consequence of commoditisation.

"We are fortunate to have a channel base in this region that is not only healthily growing and diversifying, but one that has been extremely supportive to us," says Tamim Taufiq, head of consumer sales, MENA, at Symantec.

"With regards to security, we would hope that our channel partners would continue to take the cautious and proactive approach we have seen successfully implemented in this region. As grey product continues to infiltrate the market, and works against resellers, we rely on the support of our partners to raise the alarm and provide intelligence where available, so we can work together to improve awareness and take aggressive steps to fight this problem."

In return, says Taufiq, Syamntec's partners benefit from a robust joint programme designed to ensure that businesses and consumers in the region take a proactive approach towards securing their data, and to endure that they are equipped with the training, knowledge and expertise to address their security needs.

At major security vendor McAfee, Omar Barakat, channel development manager, MENA region, says resellers are the vendor's lifeline - so it is incumbent on McAfee to help them to be adequately equipped to make the most of the market.

"We currently provide the majority of our training to our partners for free, which is a big advantage over our competition, and we make this investment in order to help our partners and enable them on our solutions," he says.

"In return, we expect them to dedicate a minimum of two sales and one technical consultant for our five main technologies. In addition to the required resources, we conduct marketing events so McAfee is well promoted in the market. We require dedication and focus."

McAfee provides its partners with software and aggressively discounted hardware for demonstration purposes, training that allows them to conduct proof of concept independently for customers, marketing events and participation in GITEX, and regular technical updates.

"The margin our partners make varies on a case by case basis, depending on their relationship in the account, the level of competition and various sales elements," he says. "In general, our partners make reasonably good margins and are able to provide additional services when they become certified on our solutions - which will help them make additional margins."

At Trend Micro, Sushma Kajaria says it's important for channel partners to establish trusted advisor relationships with their customers. A one-way push on training is not necessarily the best way to achieve this. Resellers should also have a say in what they need to deliver the best value for the customer. And they need to be able to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, with unique ‘deep security' solutions that address customer requirements in virtualised or cloud environments.

"Trend Micro is leading the way in defining solutions for today's and tomorrow's IT infrastructures, where the customers have physical, virtual or hosted infrastructure," says Kajaria.

"We have a unique deep security solution for the virtual environment, a unique solution for protecting data in cloud environments and protecting data from leakage within organisations, and we have unique secured online collaborative solutions. A large proportion of our partners have capitalised on these opportunities and are reaping high profits and rewards from their investments."

Kajaria says other aspects of the vendor/partner relationship are also important: strong local sales teams that drive business in harness with channel partners, who also have access to top-class technical support at every stage of the sales process; non-competitive distribution partners; a commitment to a multi-tier channel structure that never bypasses reseller or distribution partners; and an ethical and honest way of managing the relationship.

With their ability to put together product portfolios, distributors often hold the key for resellers who are aiming to provide tailored and comprehensive security solutions.

"Primarily, we focus on presenting a set of complementary ‘A' brand vendors who are market leaders in their space, but we also look to leading ‘B' brand vendors so we can provide our channel with more of a solution discussion to take to their customers," says Computerlinks' Andrews.

"The enterprise market in particular has shown great maturity in requesting a more detailed discussion from the channel regarding the entire network, as opposed to a limited conversation about one particular product or technology.

Andrews says the portfolio is under constant review, to ensure that it contains the right mix. Computerlinks also lends its support through a variety of ways including end-user road shows, lead generation activities, telemarketing, special promotions and product bundles.

"We offer a truly user-friendly support ecosystem to our channel when it comes to product choice, and we'll often engage with them to identify missing components of a solution," says Andrews.

"For example, if we have a request for a UTM device, we'll ask the partner to open a dialogue with the customer about remote access, wireless access, application delivery and data loss prevention (DLP), then provide the technical support and knowledge to empower him in that conversation so that the end-user can have a mature conversation which is more expansive than the legacy ‘sell box, move on' approach.

"We also support the partner in the implementation process, either by deploying our own resources or enrolling them in our training programs so they can increase their skills and manage future projects end to end."

This way lie improved margins, as Andrews points out. It's more likely that resellers will have a healthy margin on a project with many components, support and installation services, rather than simply selling a single UTM device.

At another distributor, Comguard, senior vice president Mohammad Mobasseri says higher profits should always follow a move away from basic box shifting.

"This requires [resellers] to enhance their product awareness and help in the decision-making process of their customers while adding value through technical consultancy, training and technical support," he says. "This will quicken the sales turnaround and add to resellers' margins."

Mobasseri says vendors have been quick to adapt to market demands, with many of them now anticipating the rise of cloud computing and its impact on security concerns.

"We are not yet in the delivery state of cloud-based security services," he says. "However, as a security VAD, we are providing training to prepare our partners on cloud-based services. Some of our vendors have already launched their cloud services in other regions and are gearing up to launch them in the Middle East, too. We will be having a partner gathering, to discuss the adaptation and implementation of cloud computing and its future in the region."

The good news for any reseller serious about security, is that business awareness combined with emerging trends in corporate IT infrastructures is conducive to continued growth, as well as ongoing demand for specialist services and comprehensive product portfolios that can manage the variety of devices and data access methods across the network.

"I believe that after several outbreaks of hacking activity that have been rampant across the world, security will attract more investment in hiring qualified technical resources in the work place, and in best suited security products, and more emphasis on technical support than pricing," says Mobasseri.

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