In an effort to help partners capture more security customers, Microsoft has added depth to the Security Solutions Competency within the Microsoft Partner Program, most notably by teaming up with third-party certification groups.
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The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant announced that it has inked partnerships with the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)⊃2; and Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).
The moves are intended to help differentiate among companies that achieve the Security Solutions Competency, which is essentially Microsoft's stamp of approval for partners and resellers who have been certified to offer Microsoft products and services.
Within the Security Solutions Competency are two new specializations. The security management specialization is intended for partners who focus on technology-agnostic services such as security policy, governance, compliance with government regulations like HIPAA and SOX, risk assessment, risk management and auditing. The other, infrastructure security, is geared for companies that implement specific Microsoft technologies.
Now for a partner to obtain the security management specialization, it must have two employees who hold ISC2 or ISACA certifications, in addition to Microsoft's certification. Those seeking the infrastructure security specialization may have a pair of workers with either Microsoft certification, or certifications from the ISC2 or ISACA.
Thomas Dawkins, Microsoft's group product manager for security partner strategy, said the changes were inspired by feedback from more than 200 partners, many of whom felt the program neither recognized their abilities to provide unique security offerings, nor gave them enough leverage to capture new customers.
"Previously we didn't focus on partners that truly understood the standards and policies that are very important for a partner to assist a customer to drive optimization of their infrastructure," Dawkins said. "We want to make sure that our partners can help a customer become secure and stay secure."
Partners also receive an updated set of benefits for obtaining these specializations. Dawkins said they will gain access to new marketing collateral, use of Microsoft logos, co-branding opportunities, competitive information and up to $140,000 worth of Microsoft products to test their offerings and build their businesses.
"We've also added some special security newsgroups for our partners, and some in-depth training," Dawkins said, including for those partners that may not currently specialize in security. "We can help our partners build out their businesses to help them focus on the security market."
Dawkins admits that Microsoft historically hasn't always given its partner program enough care and feeding, particularly in regard to security, hence it's been difficult for those businesses to develop their own leads and grow customer bases independent of Microsoft. He said these moves are intended to change that.
For customers, Dawkins said, the changes will augment and promote the partners who are capable of providing specialized or locally-based Microsoft services and products that Microsoft itself can't always do.
"We want customers to have a very sound, skilled and expert partner ecosystem that they can count on," he said.