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Symantec partner program update: Acquisitions and specializations

Symantec Corp. has been busy lately, most notably with its recent purchase of encryption companies PGP Corp. and GuardianEdge. Randy Cochran, vice president of channel sales, and Gina Sheibley, senior coproate communications manager at Symantec, talked with about what the acquisition means for its partners. Cochran also spoke about other recent Symantec partner program changes, including the company's exit from consulting services and its move to include more specializations.

Symantec recently adjusted its partner program to include more specializations. Can you explain those changes?
We actually announced last November at our Partner Engage event down in Florida that we were heading in this direction. Since that time, we have a total of five specializations that are available today. Another sixth will be available at the end of May on the storage side, and then we'll continue to add more between now and the end of our calendar year, which is when we will officially launch our new Symantec partner program. … When we announce it at the end of this calendar year, partners will have until the following September to comply. So we're giving them plenty of runway to get there and become specialized in the areas they want to. Can you review those specializations? And what will partners need to do to achieve them?
On the security side today, there are four main specializations: endpoint management, data loss prevention, SMB specialization and foundational enterprise security /IT compliance. The specializations range from region to region, so these are the ones that are currently available in North America. Can you review those specializations? And what will partners need to do to achieve them?
There are a number of classes that will be available in traditional classroom form from instructor-led training all the way down to computer-based training modules, which have become extremely popular with our partners.

If someone's very deep in security today, if they're a CISSP, and they want to go ahead and get specialized, they can test out right away -- which is what a lot of partners want to try to do to see where they stand. And if they pass it, they're in. If not, now they know where to focus in on for the training. All of the IP and education and testing that we do for our own people is available for our partners.

Some of the classes also require some shadowing because of the complexity involved. For example, with data loss prevention (DLP), if you're going to be doing implementations or services around these, we'll actually ride shotgun with you. We'll shadow with you in a couple situations to make sure you're not doing it alone. How will partners be rewarded for these specializations?

More tiers for hosted services

Symantec recently announced three additional tiers that will expand the company's Hosted Services global partner program.

 The more specializations you get, the more rewards you get. We have several models that we're putting in front of the advisory council, and we'll roll those out officially at the end of this year. The rewards and benefits will come in terms of rebates and margins. If you're specialized and a go to partner for services, you're going to be one of the few partners that our field is going to want to work with.

Most customers are looking for partners that can go deep in an area and can be that trusted advisor. If you're not making those kinds of investments, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage if you're going toe to toe with a partner who is certified. They will have that deep expertise, they will have that knowledge base, and they'll be able to prove it in front of the customer. Is the specialization program a result of partners having to juggle Symantec's various arms: antivirus, storage, etc?.
I think it's recognition of where the industry is going. The threat landscape has evolved to a point where malware is very complex, and we've built our portfolio to address that complexity and really put a set of solutions together and not just point products. When you look at our latest two acquisitions within the last week, with PGP and GuardianEdge, again, we're trying to round out the portfolio. … I think if you talk to any kind of CISO or CIO, they're going to tell you "I want to deal with fewer vendors. I want to consolidate my desktop to the extent it makes sense." Symatnec's trying to nip that together for our partners to deliver. Speaking of that, what do the latest acquisitions here of PGP and GuardianEdge mean for partners out there? What are some of the initial integration challenges that the acquisitions pose for Symantec?
I won't know until we see it and it's formally done. I would expect it's mostly back-end integration [issues]: what systems [the acquired companies are] using to book and process orders, and moving them into the Symantec systems as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, when partners go through distribution or come to us directly, they want a common look and feel to be able to do that. We'll run those dual paths until we can get it fully integrated so we won't disrupt any business that's out there. Are there any lessons learned based on past acquisitions?
There's always things to take away, I think. When you're doing the acquisitions the way Symantec does them, we give it best efforts, we look at the people involved, and we try to get the best systems involved to put our best foot forward. There's no easy way to do it. It's a lot of "Hey, let me understand how you're doing it today, why you're doing it that way, and how do we move that into the existing Symantec ecosystem." We also learn a little bit from a best practices perspective. They may be doing something today that we ought to incorporate. How will you enable partners to be ready to use these new technologies?
We'll integrate them in just like we would any other technology. We'll continue the current partner programs of both companies. PGP has a pretty well established channel program, and maybe not so much for GuardianEdge. So we'll look to integrate those. We do have partners that are in both camps, in both Symantec and either PGP or GuardianEdge, and will allow them to continue as we work on this integration. I expect to see that done in a pretty fast format.

We've already seen some very powerful integration on previous acquisitions. One that I usually point out, going back to the Veritas acquisition that people have kind of forgotten about, the security product, Backup Exec, now has live update capabilities. So when you have security threats out there, our live update can talk to the backup jobs and initiate backup jobs or take critical servers offline, depending on the threat landscape that 's out there.

This ties into our other most recent announcement on services. Symantec is going completely to a partner-led services strategy. We're no longer going to be leaning on our own consulting organizations; we'll be leaning on our partners to do that. Right, Symantec has stepped out of the consulting business. Why was this decision made? Do you see that as a benefit to partners?
For the partners that are out there driving these specializations and getting deep on these solutions, the next logical step is for them to deliver the services well. Many of them do it today. All of the services going forward will be on partner paper by partners, and we're going to look to open up the aperture by literally opening up the IP and allowing the intellectual property to transfer back and forth so that anything we have, they will have. Will Symantec partners require additional certifications to be consultants?
It depends on the specialization, certainly for the specialization on the software. But to do services, there's a lot of tools that we have. For example, we have two flagship backup and recovery products. One is Backup Exec, which is typically Windows-centric, and then NetBackup for larger customers and mixed environments.

NetBackup actually has a migration tool for moving old backup tapes from previous releases of NetBackup or from competitors' releases, to get them all up to speed on the latest version.. Now that particular tool needs to be used properly, so there'll be training requirements. For any of the IP that requires some level of training on how to, we'll put those stipulations in. It's less about restricting. You and I both have a driver's license, but you still have to get a motorcycle license, which you still have to test for. It's a similar analogy.

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