Taking a fresh approach

Taking a fresh approach

A year after being acquired by US equity firm, Francisco Partners, and subsequent de-listing, WatchGuard is embarking on a fresh approach to Unified Threat Management (UTM). Locally, the company has installed a new channel team and is developing partner incentive schemes with a focus on the SMB space. Asia-Pacific sales vice-president, Norbert Kiss, took some timeout to explain its channel plans with ARN.

How is WatchGuard changing to meet security concerns?
Norbert Kiss (NK): Last year we went through some internal changes. We were acquired by a US equity firm, Francisco Partners, taken off the stock market and went private. That has been an incredible change for our business in terms of our momentum in the market and in product development. This year, our primary intention in A/NZ is to expand our channel. This will be through value-added resellers, providing new solutions around Internet security and product and technology roll-outs.

We have strong technologies but I don't think we have done a great job communicating to our partners, especially around the Asia-Pacific region. What we are finding at the moment is that SMBs, which are our niche, are really struggling with security issues such as spam and trojans. Our objective is to tool up resellers to provide solutions for those customers. We currently have 30 local formalised partnerships.

How do you plan to help partners tackle these opportunities?
Part of the challenge is having the right channel programs that entice partners to sell our product. it's important we provide education and financial incentives to ensure partners are getting the right return on their investment, margins and so on. We will be introducing new rebate channel programs and co-op opportunities. We will also focus on selling subscriptions with each of our units so there are ongoing revenue opportunities for partners.

How is Unified Threat Management (UTM) evolving?
The market for what we call point solutions still exists, but customers are turning towards something that will look after all of their security needs. According to a Frost and Sullivan report, the global UTM market is growing in excess of 15 per cent and at 25 per cent around Asia-Pacific. There are significant opportunities not only for vendors but also for our partners. There are some new technologies coming out and one that we have really latched onto is information leakage protection. We do a great job of trapping things that come into the company, such as viruses, spam mail and trojans, but the security industry generally doesn't trap a lot of information that flows out. We are currently putting a lot of emphasis on the delivery of technology that will protect a company's intellectual property rights.

Where do you see the UTM market heading?
It will continue to grow at the current rate for the next three or four years at the expense of software and point security solutions. So you will see a lot of those types of vendors moving into the UTM space. We are already seeing that and it is going to be a highly contested market.

Certainly, spam and antivirus are on top of everyone's mind and that is where we are spending a lot of our energy. We can relate to customers the real cost of spam - it is not only a loss in productivity, it is having the right infrastructure in place for additional mail as well as bandwidth management. In Singapore, we have put a WatchGuard Security Centre in place and have security consultants providing advice to SMBs who don't know what to do about this problem. It might be something we explore in Sydney and Melbourne because we think users need to understand security better.

What does WatchGuard's upcoming product roadmap look like?
One of the biggest technology areas in the next 12 months is going to be information leakage protection and I think compliance laws around the globe will insist on that. From a technology point of view, we are going to get faster, cheaper and have more security software updates available. We have dramatically increased our product cycle times and there are constant product refreshes. One feature of our product set is zero-day protection, which stops threats that have not yet been identified. Most customer want to put a red box on their network that they switch on and don't worry about any more, then it's up to us to provide the latest in security threats and information required to track spam. We offer a Live Security Service, which provides instant notification of any threats. It's a paid subscription service that comes with WatchGuard products. One of the areas we are looking into is sending an SMS notification of these threats.

What are some of the biggest security threats today?
Firstly, spam will get worse, and we are going to have to get smarter about how we protect our customers. There is no end in sight for spam. I think there are laws coming into place that will help, but it will just keep moving from country to country where such laws are lax. Virus protection is now quite sophisticated. The trick with viruses is to trap it before it gets on to your side of the firewall and just strip it off. Don't underestimate the number of people trying to attack your network.

How is WatchGuard differentiating itself to competitors like SonicWall?
The market is certainly getting more cluttered and aggressive; there is no question about that. The success of our business is going to be based on how well we manage our partners and all of our attention is on building the channel programs and rebates. We also know what we are talking about and as customers come up with problems in the security area, we come up with solutions. The market is going to become more commoditised over the years and we need to be on top of it.

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