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Intel Security shifts channel strategy

Intel Security adjusts its channel strategy in response to a market shift towards services-based security

Intel Security is shifting its channel strategy in line with market trends, according to Richard Steranka, head of global channel operations.

The security group has begun refining its channel strategy and will continue that process after Intel spins it off as separate security firm under the McAfee banner in partnership with investment firm TPG.

The move comes five years after Intel completed its $7.7bn acquisition of McAfee and just two years after rebranding it as Intel Security.

Intel will retain a 49% stake in the new business, which is expected to be up and running by the second quarter of 2017, led by Intel Security chief Chris Young and his existing management team.

“The way organisations are consuming security products is changing, and our channel strategy is changing in response to that,” Steranka told Computer Weekly at Intel Security’s annual Focus conference in Las Vegas.

Today, most of the products are perpetual and installed on-premise, he said, and often not implemented correctly or to their optimal ability.

“It is often a painful exercise for companies. They spend the capex [capital expenditure], but do not always achieve the outcomes they were expecting,” said Steranka.

As a result, he said, companies are looking to move to subscription models that enable them to pay for security products as they are used and as they deliver value.

That is key to Intel Security’s “cloud first” strategy, he said, which is also aimed at accommodating the fact that many organisations’ infrastructure is not on-premise any more, but in the cloud.

“The deployment model is also changing because organisations’ workloads are increasingly not on-premise but in the cloud, and that is where they are looking to secure them,” said Steranka.

Selling products reaps rewards

Security is becoming more services orientated than product orientated, said Steranka, and organisations are recognising that security needs to be applied to all assets in an IT infrastructure all the time.

Because organisations typically do not have enough people to do that, he said they are looking to other companies to augment their security capabilities by manging alerts and helping to respond to breaches when they are detected.

“Our channel is shifting to those dynamics of moving into subscription-based services, selling products that are more born in the cloud and putting all those together in a services-based offering aimed at providing a security capability,” he said.

Steranka said in response to these changes, Intel Security has shifted its partner programme from being a fairly basic reward programme based on volume to one that is focused more on competencies of the partners and meeting the needs of the customer.

“It is the consultative element and the services element that are the most important to them for achieving the security outcomes they are looking for,” he said.

“We have started with product competencies in selling – and, in 2016, we introduced the requirement that partners be certified in selling competencies in three product areas, but plan to add more service competencies in 2017.

“Training is a key area where we are investing money to bring out new courses on implementation, design and architecting.”

However, Steranka said as important as training is, it can be done only inside the confines of the existing talent pool.

“What we have got to do from a technology perspective is to simplify things through more automation of security processes to free up human resources, and so enabling products to do more on their own is part of our product roadmap,” he said.

Increasing partner profitability

As part of the new partnership programme, he said the company is looking to continually increase partner profitability through new products and business models, and making fundamental changes to partner rebates.

“We have just announced a platinum rebate programme that is dramatically simplified and starts to pay out money to partners earlier – as early as 80% achievement of their quarterly target,” he said.

According to Steranka, there are also “pretty substantial” accelerators such as the payment of an 8% rebate on achieving 150% of target in response to feedback from partners.

“We are listening to what they think works and what doesn’t and we are making those changes pretty rapidly,” he said.

Spin-off business welcomed by partners

Channel partners have responded positively to the news of the planned spin off, said Steranka.

“Some have said to me that they felt that powerful and internationally recognised McAfee brand had been diluted and lost in the integration [of McAfee with Intel] They are excited about not having to explain who Intel Security is,” he said.

But Steranka said it is important to note that Intel will remain a very active partner in the new business. “The opportunity to bring raw silicon – and what we can do in security defence there – together with our software capability is still a powerful story that is interesting to our partners.

“We will be taking all of the good that happened with Intel, but being a separate entity with very strong financial backing from TPG will give us the ability to innovate and execute at a quicker pace than we could have as a group inside Intel,” he said.

The spin off, said Steranka, opens up opportunities to work with a growing number of partners, particularly with global system integrators, service providers and host companies as organisations move towards more services-based security.

“Until now we have been contained in terms of developing everything internally, but with the strong [financial] backing of TPG, we can start thinking about mergers and acquisitions, although there is nothing immediately on the horizon,” he said.

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