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Google's Postini acquisition drives away some messaging security VARs

Colin Steele, Executive Editor
Google's Postini acquisition has shaken up the messaging security channel. Now, some Postini resellers are considering jumping ship, and some competing messaging

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security vendors see new opportunities.

After Google's Postini acquisition last year, Google cut prices on Postini products, switched their route to market to a distribution model and made them available online. Postini reseller Tim Haas of Haas Consulting in Hutchinson, Minn., said Google is now selling "mass-produced," "canned" systems.

"I am undecided as to how we will proceed with our relationship with Postini," he said in an email. "To be honest, we may go to another solution for our email filtering needs."

Google's $625 million Postini acquisition was announced in July. At the time, its effect on the messaging security channel was uncertain. Some observers predicted that Google would use Postini resellers to solidify its own channel strategy, but others thought Google would integrate Postini's products with its other online services and take a mostly direct route to market.

Haas Consulting, a marketing firm, has sold Postini products through its SpamKillerNow.com website to meet the needs of its small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers. But every client project is unique, and Google's distribution strategy takes away those opportunities for customization, Haas said.

"We do not believe mass-produced marketing based on generic templates to be a truly effective marketing tool," he said.

Google is known for having a "pretty aggressive" direct sales force in the enterprise, according to Brian Babineau, senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. In the aftermath of Google's Postini acquisition, Google's strategy has driven some channel partners away, according to Pete Khanna, executive vice president of sales and support for MX Logic, a Postini competitor in the messaging security market.

"Google is really taking a direct approach with this now," he said. "We're seeing a lot of interest from channel partners who used to sell Postini and are seeing the writing on the wall."

But Joseph Vaccone, president of Excel Micro -- Google's East Coast distributor for Postini -- said the changes are actually attracting more Postini resellers and driving more channel business.

"It's pushing a lot of end users to resellers, and the new prices are pushing a lot of resellers to Postini," he said.

Since Google's Postini acquisition, Excel Micro has distributed to about 1,000 Postini resellers and plans to add at least 500 more, according to Vaccone. The company has made sales directly to end users, "but we are primarily focused on resellers," he said. "We want to build the channel up, and we want to offer leads to the resellers. … [Google is] definitely not dropping resellers. They're not dropping the channel. They're very committed."

The new distribution model and online availability will not take services opportunities away from Postini resellers, said Beth Blank, distribution manager and reseller relations coordinator for TestudoData, the West Coast distributor for Postini. Customers who need those messaging security services will still buy from resellers instead of purchasing the products online, she said.

"Postini is a product that really should be administered by an IT professional," she added. "There is a huge value-add."

Paul Stith, a principal with The SUM Group, a Postini reseller in Scotts Valley, Calif., agreed. He noted that although Google is selling Postini products online with lower prices, those purchases do not come with support or implementation services. He acknowledged that margins are lower but said partners can make up for that loss by selling services.

"The evolution of the market is apparent," Stith said. "It's becoming a more commoditized space, and it will come across all vendors. Changing gears because of margin I don't think is the best way to go. … Do you tell your customer you sold them the wrong thing?"

Still, MX Logic executives hope to take advantage of the changes that have occurred since Google's Postini acquisition by boosting their own channel. Late last month, the MX Logic PartnerFocus program began offering assistance to value-added resellers (VARs) who want to switch from another vendor to MX Logic. The company also launched Marketing On Demand, which offers templates, leads and other marketing tools to help partners reach more customers.


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