Intel Security channel chief sees channel partners becoming alliance partners

Richard Steranka, senior vice president of partner operations for Intel Security

Richard Steranka, senior vice president of partner operations for Intel Security

Intel Security maintains two partner programs — one for channel partners that sell or otherwise market the company’s wares to customers, and one, the Security Innovation Alliance (SIA), for those who build product that add to the company’s security platform. And if global channel chief Richard Steranka is right, there’s about to be a lot more crossover between those two communities.

Speaking to at the company’s first North American partner conference held separately from its Focus fall event in Las Vegas, Steranka said he sees more solution providers building their own components on top of the Intel Security platform.

“We have some traditional channel partners in that mix of 150 partners [in the SIA] today, but MSSPs are more and more interested in creating their own intellectual property that integrates into our intellectual property,” Steranka said. “It’ll happen more on the vertical level, because that’s where the market is going.”

Call it a concrete example of the oft-cited pearl of wisdom that solution providers will increasingly be involve in building their own repeatable solutions that can be “productized” as a way of differentiating themselves. Steranka cited U.S.-based government systems integrator Bolding James as an example of one such traditional channel partner that is making some waves in the SIA. “They’ve done some very cool things,” Steranka said of them.

Building intellectual property in the form of software and repeatable processes has become one of the prominent ways in which solution providers can add value and margin, and perhaps equally importantly, stand out in a crowd of faces offering similar solution or services to customers. Steranka said that the Intel Security platform, built on a data exchange layer that aims to share as much intelligence amongst components as possible, is uniquely positioned for such partners.

“They can differentiate more with us on the platform than they can with any other vendor out there,” he said.

As with everything at the partner conference last week, talk of moving to repeatable solutions was bathed in assertions that it must be done to meet the desired outcomes customers are seeking — namely, better protection of key systems and data.

Along with the IP focus comes an expanded interest in the channel in managed security services, said Canadian channel director Ned D’Antonio. That’s coming because customers are more interested in managed security due to an acute shortage in the number of trained security professionals available in the market.

“There’s a shortage of talent at the customer level. A big part of it addressing it is in SIEM, and there’s an opportunity with the customer base in helping them understand what it can do for them,” D’Antonio said.

At the same time, some of those customers will turn towards at least partially outsourcing security operations management. But there’s a challenge there, as channel partners are subject to the same scarcity of talent that enterprises are seeing. And can managed security services successfully come downmarket? In the past, they’ve been an enterprise game, at an enterprise cost point, and with decidedly enterprise entry costs for would-be managed security service providers. But Intel Security does see an opportunity in the midmarket.

“We’re very clear that we don’t want to be in the low-end, but SMBs will be the biggest consumers of security services,” Steranka said, in large part because “most would never have the wherewithal to get there themselves.”

Although full details of any program are not available yet, he did hint at a program that will make it easier for would-be MSSPs in the Intel Security channel to ramp up managed security services as part of their offering.

And for partners considering the jump, Steranka stresses not making it all-or-nothing jump — instead, he urges solution providers to listen to customer pain points, and offer outsources managed of aspects of security that a number of customers don’t want to handle in-house.

“You have to go with a choice — what do you want to do yourself, versus what do you want to buy form me as a service,” Steranka advised.

For many solution providers, even making that step might be tough — but Steranka suggested that the writing is on the wall, as more customers will be looking to consume aspects of security management as a service than will be looking to install a new product to address any given aspect of vulnerability.

“Not every partner is going to have the ability to do it. There’s the shortage of professional, and it takes a lot of capital expenditure to get into it. That kind of delivery, though, is going to be more in demand than traditional resale,” Steranka said.