Intel Security channel strategy steady on road back to McAfee

No channel announcements were made at the Intel Security Focus event, although a new Platinum rebate for net new sales that had not been announced publicly goes live this quarter. Big changes that the channel should already be aware of are coming in 2017, however.

Intel executive Richard Steranka at Intel offices in Santa Clara, California, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (Paul Sakuma Photography)

Intel channel chief Richard Steranka

LAS VEGAS – Intel Security announced major achievements in its product integration strategy on Wednesday here at its Focus Security Conference. No channel announcements were made, but the channel strategy will follow the same course as the product one, along lines which have already been telegraphed to the channel.

The company is emphasizing that independence as a separate company next spring will bring consistency rather than change on the channel front.

“From a channel perspective, as Intel Security we operated the same way we operated before we integrated into Intel,” said Chris Young, SVP and GM of the Intel Security Group. “It has been the same group of channel partners throughout. We built in new leadership last year with Richard Steranka – and Ken McCray runs North American channels today. As we become an independent company, we don’t want to introduce any disruptions.”

That doesn’t mean that significant channel change won’t appear at the new McAfee next spring. Those changes, however, are the continuation of actions that have already been in motion throughout 2016.

The channel has already come a long way from the days when it was largely endpoint-centric, said Steranka, Head of Global Channel Operations at Intel Security. Some further steps are still required to keep the channel transformation in line with the company’s transformation from being focused on product to today’s focus not just on solutions, but on broadly integrated solutions.

“This has been a 18 month evolution in product development, where tying them together has required some ground-up redevelopment,” Steranka said. “We are at the onset of stages where partners can begin to deploy the vision that we shared 18 months ago. That will require a skillset around architecting and deploying those solutions. The vision of where we are taking the platform lends itself to those channel priorities.

Steranka said that this restructuring is also necessary to attract and retain top partners at a time when they are restructuring their own practices to focus on fewer, more strategic vendor partners.

“The channel program is following the same direction that our strategic partners are already going in, where they are consolidating, going from having many vendors to having as few as five,” he said. “We want to be one of those strategic vendors. We have been reshaping the channel program as a result – not just around sales capabilities, but service capabilities and managed services capabilities based on our platform.”

This will mean that compulsory alignment around services competencies, in line with sales ones which have already been implemented, will be coming.

“We started with sales competencies, and the next iteration will be services competencies, and we will – be doing that in 2017,” Steranka said “Service capabilities exist today. We have 100 partners who have them authorized already. The difference is that 2017 will see it made compulsory. Today, Platinum partners need to have three of our sales competencies, and Gold partners need to have one. The services competencies will be aligned to this in the same way.”

One change that was announced early this year will kick in at the end of Q4, the change in definition of the Platinum Tier from volume-based to value-based as defined by sales competencies.

Another change which was related to partners at the start of Q3 for Q4 – but which was not announced publicly – is a new Platinum incentive rebate program. It applies only to that tier, about 5 per cent of Intel Security’s total partner base.

The new rebate has three objectives, Steranka said.

“We wanted to make it more rewarding for partners to drive new business growth, and this rebate is for new paper,” he said. “We also wanted to be simple. Partners told us that in the past, you needed a math degree to figure out our payouts. Finally, we also wanted partners to have more visibility to see where they were in the quarter in order to maximize the payouts.”

Another change is that more professional services resources – 19 per cent — have been added in the calendar year. 11 per cent more will be added in the next couple of months.

“We want the channel more heavily involved in professional services, and these resources will be a key part of our strategy there,” Steranka said.

Steranka indicated the vendor is looking for more MSP partners.

“More is better there,” he said. Intel Security has a focus on very large enterprises, where they have significant share there, and the mid-market, which has a partner-led strategy, is also very significant. The SMB sector is covered in some cases by Intel Security’s consumer group selling upmarket. MSPs are likely to become more critical to this segment going forward however, as the more complex integrated solutions become the dominant purchases.

“These integrated solutions are aimed at a reasonably sophisticated and dedicated security team,” said Brian Dye, vice president in the Intel Security Group and general manager of the group’s global security products. “At the lower end of the market, customers will consume them through service providers. The most effective route to market for things like Dynamic Endpoints are through a MSP. That’s how we think about it.”

Steranka also pointed to Intel Security’s decision to open source DXL, which they announced Wednesday at Focus, will be a big plus for partners.

“With DXL structure moving to an even more open world, you don’t have to be a big tech vendor to do customized development with it,” he said. “By providing SDKs to be able to do it, we’ve opened doors for partners to be able to participate more fully. Their ability to add their own IP to the platform, especially around analytics orchestration and event management will all them to build in significant differentiation.”

“There is a clear partner solution focus to DXL,” Dye said. “They can see a clear line of sight to a happy customer and more margin, just as they see benefit in us moving from a point product player to a solutions player.”