Selling Connected Security to Dell SonicWALL partners

For the first time, Dell brought its other security software units to its Peak event for SonicWALL partners, to press the logic of why they should sell them as well, although they recognize there are customer issues which go beyond simple logic.

Bill Evans Dell

Bill Evans, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Dell Software

LAS VEGAS – The theme of this year’s Dell Security Peak Performance conference here was Connected Security – combining the SonicWALL value proposition with other Dell security software solutions like identity management, access management, and encryption. For the first time at Peak, senior executives from each of these areas were brought in to explain the value proposition of their offerings to the SonicWALL partners.

This isn’t exactly a new strategy. Dell has always encouraged cross-selling other Dell solutions to offer customers more options and expand revenues. However, under the leadership of Curtis Hutcheson, who took the helm as VP and GM of Dell Security Solutions in May, Dell has become much more aggressive in breaking down the boundaries between the different security business units and making it easier to sell the different solutions together.

“There have been internal challenges holding the team back, and we have had some challenges executing,” Hutcheson said. “The team is focused on providing the best products. My job is to remove barriers to getting their innovative products out to market.”

Bill Evans, a Dell Software Senior Director of Product Marketing who came from Quest, and whose area includes the former Quest Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions, confirmed removing these barriers is now top priority.

“Curtis is really forcing technical integration on us,” Evans said. “He is whipping us into shape about how we take these products to market. He is wielding a really big stick to break down those walls”

The walls, in the case of the IAM solutions, were fairly high. Quest was a highly siloed company, and the extent of channel participation in their go-to-market varied wildly across their product lines, from extensive to non-existent. The IAM solutions leaned to the latter category, being basically a direct sales model, although almost half the business had partner fulfilment, when the customer wanted to buy though a partner. There was also an SI opportunity.

“A year ago, we would have been the alien in the room here,” Evans said. “There was no connection between us and the SonicWALL partners. Today the connections are still minimal. Over the last two and a half days, we learned we have an education experience ahead of us. Based on [Dell VP of Product Management] Patrick Sweeney’s keynote, we have had a lot of people come to our booth, but they don’t even know what privileged account management is.”

“A lot of people here at Peak view IAM as a single thing that is huge and expensive and very difficult, and it can be, and that WOULD be out of their wheelhouse,” said Todd Peterson, another Dell Senior Product Manager in the same area. “However, privileged access management, single sign-on, web access management and multifactor authentication – those are different. Those are great opportunities for partners who serve smaller customers.”

Given this, Evans said he expects SonicWALL partners to embrace IAM fairly quickly.

“A year from now, we expect many will be doing this,” he said. “Interest will come from everywhere, aligned to the size of the client. If it’s a 20 person doctors’ office, the interest is in two-factor authentication. 50-100 people is when is when privileged access management becomes of interest, and large organizations will be interested in full IAM.”

“Customers will have to do this at some point, and it is just a matter of who they will be buying it from,” Peterson said. “This isn’t selling people something they don’t need. It’s something they do need and their auditors will tell them that.”

Dell’s encryption business has much the same relationship to the SonicWALL channel as IAM. There is basically no joint history. Much education is needed to address partner questions and concerns. Yet ultimately, the potential synchronicities are very high.

Dell’s encryption capability, Dell Data Protection, originated in the acquisition of Credent in 2013, but has been massively expanded since then, with the engineering team having tripled in size since the acquisition.


Brett Hansen, Executive Director of Data Security Solutions at Dell Software

“Credent wasn’t a channel play at all when acquired, and we also sold it direct at first, but are now seeing about 20 per cent of the business go through the channel,” said Brett Hansen, Executive Director of Data Security Solutions at Dell Software. “Last year I had one and a half people on the channel. This year I have five.”

Hansen said Dell Data Protection has two channel routes to market. One is the SonicWALL channel, and the other is traditional client partners who sell PCs and tablets.

“We have had more traction with the second group, the client partners,” he said. “It’s a more logical sell with them.”

The SonicWALL partners have been a tougher sell, but Hansen said he has been pleased with the event.

“This is the first time we have exposed partners to this, and leaving the meeting, I have very high expectations,” he said. “Partners have been barraging me with questions about how they can use this. There are a lot of opportunities. Partners say their history is network-based but customers want them to help answer challenging security questions of protecting endpoint data, and this is a more attractive option than full disk encryption. The biggest challenge is that I’m a well-kept secret.”

Ultimately, Hansen said he thinks the value proposition is just too strong to ignore.

“Encryption is the fastest growing line in Dell now, growing triple digits year over year,” he said. “Full disk encryption is painful to deploy and difficult to administer, and encrypting at endpoint only is a fundamentally flawed strategy. We are data-centric, and focus on encrypting the data not the devices, with the encryption remaining in place as the data moves. That’s ideal for mobility. When you use tools like Dropbox and more and more devices, you HAVE to have data-centric encryption. This is a very powerful conversation to have with customers.”

The Dell KACE systems management appliances were acquired with KACE in 2010. At that time, while KACE used DMRs like CDW and OEMs like Dell as channels, they didn’t have much VAR channel traction, and in North America today, it’s only about a quarter of the business, although it is more in other geos like Europe.

KACE has been trying longer than the other units to forge links with the SonicWALL partners and this longer experience has led to somewhat more success.

Bill Odell Dell

Bill Odell, Vice President Marketing, Dell Software, Endpoint Systems Management

“Trying to figure our value proposition for a SonicWALL VAR was difficult at first,” said Bill Odell, Vice President Marketing, Dell Software, Endpoint Systems Management. “We found that because they also sold hardware appliances, this made them easier to talk to, and focusing on endpoint security makes it another value proposition they can bring to the customer. It’s still early days, but I think we have figured out how to engage these VARs how to have natural conversations with the customers. Two years ago, we didn’t know how.”

Channel-unfriendly practices have been dumped.

“We used to require customers to buy professional services SKUs from us,” Odell said. “That upset the channel, so we unbundled our SKUs, so now partners can deliver the services.”

Odell said they have been deepening the links with the SonicWALL partners with major releases that go beyond inventory management, to help IT manage security.

“We also work closely with the SonicWALL teams for integrations that are lightweight but simple,” he said. “They can now configure a SonicWALL appliance so they know if it has a KACE agent, and if they don’t, a message can be sent where to go to download it”.

Despite the opportunities, Connected Security faces a problem in that buying multiple solutions like this all at once has not been typical customer behavior.

“For SonicWALL partners, we are a follow-up sale,” Odell said. “We are not yet at a point where partners are selling us in parallel.”

Odell said that when talking with SonicWALL VARs selling KACE, the VARs say they sell the firewall first, and then later, as the trusted advisor, they come back for KACE.

“They see it as a very natural, but separate sale,” he said. “It is still choppy and disconnected, but it is part of the conversation. We still need to get the products to talk to each other better to deal with this, and it’s something the dev teams are working on. These VARs absolutely can make money on services for KACE. For every dollar of licenses for KACE, there are ten dollars in services down the road.”

Hansen said that SonicWALL VARs selling Dell encryption can have a major selling advantage if they raise the conversation of endpoint encryption at the point of sale.

“It’s an important issue for customers,” he said. “The alternatives are a myriad of full disk vendors with frustrating solutions, or companies that don’t have our scale or resources. The client partners who have had success raise the conversation of security. The customer will say they know they need encryption, but it’s just not worth it because of the hassle, in which case the partner can explain how Dell is different. Or they will say they already have someone else providing full disk, and the followup is whether they are happy with them, and the answer is usually no. The result is that some of our larger partners are attaching us at a 40 per cent rate.”

Bill Evans said they recognize that IAM will be a followup sale for other security partners – for now.

“We don’t have the mindset that someone will write up a purchase order for everything at once, because that’s not how customers consume these things,” he said. “We look at this as a process in which it’s a long term play, not how people are going to buy in the next twelve months.

“On the other hand, that’s how they buy today. But five years ago, would you have believed you could hit a button on your laundry machine to order laundry detergent? In five years, customers MIGHT buy these things that way because people offer it that way. Today no one is selling it like that — but they could.”

Larry Cecchini VAR

Larry Cecchini, President and CEO of Secure Design

To do that though, many customers will need to change their buying expectations. Larry Cecchini, President and CEO of Greensboro NC-based managed IT security firm Secure Design, which picked up a Partner of the Year award from Dell at the show, said it comes down to the customer. For larger ones, like their biggest customer, Time Warner Cable, for whom they have been OEMing their back end, starting in 2005 in one market, and expanding it to the point where the 30 person VAR is now Time Warner’s national security provider, it can make sense, even though Time Warner’s customers are for the most part smaller businesses.

Selling new concepts and solutions directly to SMBs can be something else.

“Many SMBs perceive the value of security to be 50 per cent of their Internet connection,” he said. “To hit those price points with an uninformed customer, you have to be judicious with what you put into the bundle. We are actively looking at bringing in other solutions that make sense for us in terms of capabilities, like IAM and wireless. But while there is lots of cool stuff we would like to do, we know we will get blank stares from many people if we suggest it.”