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The delicate art of forming vendor alliances

The global director of alliances at cyber security player FireEye gives an insight into the art of forming a successful vendor alliance

It is easy to overlook that in a lot of cases the people responsible for running vendor channel programmes are also involved with forming technology alliances.

What can make things confusing is the tendency for vendors to describe anyone from a reseller and distributor to a fellow manufacturer as a 'partner'.

Confusion can be irksome but things can become more irritating if an alliance is struck that gives another vendor the right to resell products that then leads to channel conflict.

It might be good for brand and market reach to allow a complimentary vendor to offer the products but that could mean cutting off potential users that the channel might have targeted.

The channel head of one cloud vendor that recently signed a partnership with a major networking firm found that partners were unhappy afterwards with what they saw as a potential source of conflict. The reaction has settled down but for a while what had originally felt like a real feather in the cap was in danger of causing a lot of problems.

Scott McCrady, director of global alliances at FireEye, is acutely aware of the dangers and weighs the need for market reach, brand extension and potential impact on the channel before he gives the green light to a partnership.

“You have to think it through and have a very clear [idea of how it will impact] the channel ecosystem,” he said that the best case scenario was to find an undiscovered route to market.

Where he has struck a partnership it has been with the aim of trying to discover and form that fresh route to market. The aim has been to use an alliance to open up a completely untapped approach to deploying its technology.

Recent alliances bear this out with McCrady referencing a partnership with Visa and a relationship with HP as examples of its philosophy in action.

The Visa relationship gives the credit card giant the right to offer merchants the FireEye cyber security products. The channel are unlikely to have the relationships with the merchants and as a result wouldn’t feel they were being cut out.

With HP the deal is mainly for the hardware player to provide its customers with security. The vendor has its own list of direct customers and can provide those with additional services and can present the FireEye technology as part of a package.

A more traditional partnership was struck with F5 earlier this week that included offering partners the chance to pitch a solution that included the infrastructure expertise from one vendor with the knowledge of cyber attacks of the other.

McCrady added that at the same time as looking to strike up relationships with other vendors and routes to market it was doing more to encourage its traditional channel partners to get themselves into a position where they could deliver more managed security services (MSS).

“We are continuing to see a momentum of more of the partners moving into managed services and MSS is a component of that. Customers are trying to what they want to consume as managed services and a lot of the channel are being successful,” he added.

"MSS is growing and and is one of the fastest growth areas and that demand is recognised and we are seeing more customers looking for security services to be delivered in that way," he added "There is nothing out there that suggests it will slow down."

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