IN THE HOT SEAT: Climbing the security mountain

IN THE HOT SEAT: Climbing the security mountain

Six years from now, WatchGuard Technologies' sales director, Sven Radavics, is planning to celebrate his fortieth birthday by scaling a Nepalese mountain. In preparing for what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest challenges of his life, he said his professional experience has helped him achieve greater concentration.

In the business world, he is squarely focused on climbing to the top of the unified threat management (UTM) security appliance world. He wants to help partners develop skills in the SME market, act as trusted advisors in the risk management space and understand security as a process rather than a product pitch.

How did you get involved in IT?
Sven Radavics (SR): It happened by accident. I started off in actuarial studies but realised it was boring. During that time, I took a part-time job as a systems administrator and it went from there. I worked at a warehousing and logistics company looking after the IT systems. I did some software development on the side, and then landed a consulting job at Information Synergy.

What hats have you worn at WatchGuard?
SR: It's been an interesting move forward, sideways and just about every which way over the past seven years. I started as a systems engineer for Asia-Pacific before becoming technical director, managing the sales engineering team. I then stepped into sales and managed South East Asia, looking after Singapore and a number of developing economies, and then landed the A/NZ sales director role.

What are some of your significant milestones?
SR: One of my big ones was helping AT&T Asia build a managed security business, which for them was new at the time. We're talking about a company that comes from a pure telco background. For them to embrace something as divergent as managed security, and for us to help them build a successful business, is something I'm proud of. We educated them on the emerging security market. We helped them architect the data centre to manage the security operation, and set up the marketing program and the business plan.

Does the managed security market offer good opportunities today?
SR: This is just one area of opportunity for the company. We were one of the first to release product for managed security services. It's certainly another revenue stream for our business partners. It's all about finding recurring revenue.

What other areas should partners look to for some action?
SR: We have other product segments with a lot of services tied around them that also provide for annuity revenue streams.

The other segments include the all-encompassing category of UTM, firewall, VPN, gateway, antivirus, IPS, content filtering, spam blocking, and instant messenger and peer-to-peer blocking. And the newest product is our SSL gateway product.

What trends are driving the UTM market?
SR: Security continues to be complicated and a UTM does a number of things.

First, it's a single device that needs to be configured to solve multiple problems.

Secondly, it saves on training. You have end-users or resellers that only need to learn one interface, one product, to solve this multitude of problems. It's also a cost saving.

The technology is aimed at the mid-market. It's targeted at companies that don't have a plethora of engineers they can spend a lot of money on training.

In addition to revving up UTM, what are your other company strategies?
SR: The SSL market is really hot at the moment. It is something people have spoken about a lot, but there have been barriers to entry. One is that traditional players have been too expensive, and the products have been complicated to set up. We've released a product that's price aggressive, and a lot easier to set up. Our product offers a whole enterprise feature set, so it's not a bastardised product.

What are your channel plans for the rest of the year and into 2006?
SR: I want to help the channel understand there are some clear cut ways to differentiate themselves from the field when selling security products. By doing so, they can solve a lot of end-user problems, save them money and pain, and build a good business segment for themselves.

Does the company plan on making any changes to its distribution ranks?
SR: In our early years we were known for changing distributors - we almost left a trail of wreckage behind us as we moved through the channel. But for the past couple of years we've found a good mix of partners and we're extraordinarily happy with our distribution team. We have three of the top security distributors: Firewall Systems, LAN Systems and Whitegold. They are all value-added distributors, and all have an additional level of expertise over a box-dropper.

If you weren't in IT, what would you be doing?
SR: I'd be a mountaineering guide or an instructor. I've mostly climbed the Blue Mountains and am now moving onto bigger climbs. This is an amazing stress release. When you're hanging on a bit of rock, you can't think about anything else. You are right in the moment. I get stimulation from rock climbing physically, mentally and spiritually.

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