New PKI certification, absorption of ex-Symantec partners highlight revamped DigiCert channel program

Today, at CloudFest 2018 in Rust Germany, certificate authority [CA] provider DigiCert is announcing enhancements to its Certified Partner Program. The key objective here was to integrate the massive swell of channel partners that came as the result of DigiCert’s October 2017 acquisition of Symantec’s Website Security business and related PKI solutions – which more than quadrupled the number of DigiCert partners.

“The integration of the two problems has  actually been pretty easy and synergistic,” said Victoria [Vic] Cloutier, Head of Channel at DigiCert, who came to DigiCert with the Symantec assets.

Cloutier said that the massive new ecosystem itself is the real story here.

“We now have 5000 partners, an extremely deep and technical collection which you won’t find with other CAs,” she said. “Symantec brought close to 4000, but DigiCert had some pretty amazing ones before. DigiCert had built a very dynamic partner program so it was easy to yoke the two together.”

The synergy from the yoking benefited partners of both companies, Cloutier said.

“DigiCert had onesies and twosies among partners in many areas, but didn’t have the size, especially in the SMB and midmarket,” Cloutier said. “Former Symantec partners like the DigiCert program because in Symantec, they were always just a sub-area of the much bigger Symantec program. At Symantec, we also knew where some parts of our partner program needed to be improved. DigiCert really gave us a shot of dynamism there. We were able to take the best of both, and have something new and formidable. It’s really a much stronger program than either company had before. Partners are genuinely enthusiastic and really like what they see.”

The new program supports ten separate partner segments: Master Reseller; Hosting Provider/Reseller; Domain Registrar; Consulting Services; OEMs; Content Delivery Networks; Control Panel Providers; Web Services Provider;  Security Specialist; Cloud Service Provider. The program has a Registered tier of several thousand partners, which operates on a self-service model, and then four metallic tiers above that: Silver; Gold, Platinum; and Platinum Elite, all but the latter with about 250 partners or more.

“The higher levels do get more attention,” Cloutier said. “We do aggressively try and pitch people up to the next tier. “All but the Platinum Elite tier are determined by bookings – not necessarily consumption. Some CA partner programs tier them by currencies, but we found that the dollar threshold is most effective. You also don’t need a certification to be in a tier.” Former Symantec partners are grandfathered into the combined program at their current tiers.

The Platinum Elite tier, which is new to the program, is much smaller and invitation-only.

“We look at it as a portfolio for partners really making a difference in the space,” Cloutier said. “It has 12 or 13 partners right now, and is a three-way split between the EMEA, the Americas and APAC.”

The major addition to the program is a new certification, PKI Code Signing Certification.

“We will have three partners at CloudFest who have been getting trained up for it,” Cloutier said. “This is something that we have been rolling out, and we have a lot more partners in the pipeline.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the Symantec program did not have a certification for PKI at all, despite its importance.

“The transition to DigiCert made us emphasize that we had to support PKI better,” Cloutier said. “Symantec didn’t have formal certification for either PKI or Internet of Things. It was all informal and loosey-goosey. The acquisition was a tremendous catalyst for getting these going.”

While the PKI certification is now ready, the IOT one is not.

“The IOT certification is still in development, but we aren’t announcing anything on it today,” Cloutier said.

Former Symantec partners will find several new elements of interest specifically for them. The new DigiCert Partner Enablement Kit was designed to make things easier for transitioning Symantec partners.

“We also simplified the Program Guide, stripping down the essentials from the massive Symantec one,” Cloutier said. “We made it a lot more streamlined, and took the bloat out of it.”

Cloutier also emphasized the collateral in the new program.

“We focus on education and training for our partners with free resources and certifications,” Cloutier said. The training is free. DigiCert also provides free not for resale products, cybersecurity best practices, and a complete portfolio of sales and marketing collateral.

DigiCert has traditionally sold direct in much of the enterprise, while the channel was more SMB-focused. Given the massive influx of Symantec partners, many of whom have strong enterprise practices, managing channel conflict issues will be critical, and the company is looking to its deal registration system to play a key role here.

“We are in the process of rolling out an automated deal registration desk to help deal with this,” Cloutier said. “We have both direct and indirect arms, and we want to make sure they have a clear true north in how they manage deals. This will simplify that, so we don’t cross any wires.”