Once upon a time, IT managers could rest assured that their users, computers, data and applications all sat tight behind a hardened LAN. In a perfect world, IT would prefer to simply block all access to the resources from beyond the traditional network perimeter.
Modern business practices, however, have exploded beyond that traditional perimeter. The business benefits of networking beyond the perimeter, and the explosive acceptance of mobile technology by the workforce at large, have made the traditional hardened network model functionally obsolete. IT now must address network security in a way that enables and extends business beyond the perimeter.
It is evident that the rise of the mobile workforce is mirrored by a similar increase in the usage of mobile devices. At the end of the day, productivity gains and cost savings are driving the growing use of smart devices.
If there is one truism in computing technology, it is that nothing lasts forever. From microprocessors to applications, the pace of change and innovation continues to accelerate in computing. Today’s state of the art will be tomorrow’s ‘need to upgrade’. The pervasiveness of the internet, the growth of cloud computing and the proliferation of multiple computing devices inside (and outside) the corporate firewall are all rapidly changing the stakes for IT management to continue to secure key business data while optimising for network performance and speed.
This is particularly true when thinking about network security at the firewall. Just because a company’s current firewall is not being breached today does not ensure that it won’t be tomorrow. The absence of an immediate problem is not a guarantee of future security – older generation firewalls will not be up to the task of security content at the application level or providing tools for managing bandwidth in a dynamic Big Data environment.
One of the effects of this gap between old and new – the pace of change and innovation in next-generation firewall (NGFW) technology – has been to create significant sales and support opportunities for the channel. The NGFW market comprises many sites that are ready for upgrading and replacement. Channel companies with the right mix of products, support and training will play a critical role in this growth market.
There are multiple ways in which channel companies are ideally positioned to be value-added partners in the move to next-generation firewalls:
Let’s start with the initial sale – one of the benefits of this new generation of firewall is that it provides IT with a much richer, more sophisticated set of analysis and reporting. Dropping a new NGFW into an existing network, with the right software, can show immediate, side-by-side differences compared with older-generation firewalls. We enable channel partners to deliver what we call a Swarm (software risk management report), which enables customers to see exactly what their current network traffic is like, so they can see the difference before they buy. Channel partners can provide detailed reports which show everything the current system is not able to deliver – from application filtering to easy dynamic bandwidth control.
Attach and renew
The real value of NGFWs is not just in the hardware, it’s the combination of software and hardware that provides the right level of security for business networks. Because of the dynamic nature of security threats, channel companies have a great opportunity beyond the initial sale to develop longer-term revenue streams around services and support.
The channel has always been the one element in the distribution network that is best-suited to provide on-site training. Channel companies which are security-focused are, by definition, the subject-matter experts. They are also geographically closest to the client data centre, and therefore are the ideal delivery vehicle for initial training (and follow-on training as new IT personnel come on board).
The common thread that runs through all of this is the ability to go beyond the initial sale and to look at the NGFW opportunity as one of long-term revenue. A well thought-out go-to-market approach that combines sales, support and service programs can easily result in a revenue stream across the entire life cycle of the firewall. Every dollar of service revenue that is sold initially is multiplied over the length of product and contract – a four-year service agreement can mean 3X in additional revenue. Over time, channel partners can renew 75% of the product they initially deploy.
Of course, channel partners cannot do it all alone. The complexities of cloud computing and NGFW technology require a strong partnership between technology vendors and their channel partners. It all starts with the quality of hardware and software, but channel partners who are able to actively prospect enterprise customers require a much greater level of vendor support and assistance.
Even as technology changes, one thing that does remain a relative constant is how resellers who focus on quality over quantity, and who can provide solid service, support and training, seem to rise to the top of their industries. This is certainly the case for the NGFW market - it’s a category ripe for resellers with the right products, tools and expertise to secure their next generation of profitability.
Sandeep Joshi is country manager, ANZ for Dell SonicWall. This article originally appeared in the May issue of The Channel.