DENVER, July 11, 2007 – In June and July of 2006, Microsoft officially entered the business security market with the launch of the Forefront line of security products spanning the client, server, and network edge, and the launch of the Security Software Advisor (SSA) program for partners.
PressPass spoke with Mark Hassall during the week of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2007 to learn more about evolutions in business security, and how Microsoft is working with partners to take advantage of the opportunities.
PressPass: It’s been one year since you launched the Security Software Advisor program. How have you seen partners get involved and build out a security practice?
Hassall: The response has been tremendous, as we now have over 4,000 partners in the program, and they are actively submitting claims and taking advantage of the business opportunities. Delivering solutions and services based on Forefront is enabling these partners to pursue new opportunities, broaden and deepen their relationships with customers, and to be valued as trusted IT advisors. We’ve trained thousands of security partners through online webcasts and boot camps and this year. Microsoft is also investing an additional US$50M in sales, marketing, training and other support for its security business.
Partners throughout the security industry have been quick to recognize the opportunities inherent with selling Forefront. Many of our partners are deeply involved in providing security assessments and architectural guidance and are already leveraging the infrastructure optimization model to deliver more secure and well managed infrastructure solutions based on Forefront and System Center. There are lots of opportunities to attach Forefront to infrastructure solutions, for example securing Exchange and SharePoint deployments, where Forefront offers greater protection and control through integration with customers existing IT infrastructure. One of our resellers, CompuCom is forecasting a Forefront attach rate of between 10-20 percent on SharePoint and Exchange deals. Other good examples include attaching Forefront Client Security to Windows Vista desktop deployments, and our network edge products, ISA Server and IAG to secure remote access and remote offices.
PressPass: What are the changes you are seeing in business security amongst your customers?
Hassall: Customers are increasingly faced with more advanced security attacks and find it difficult to efficiently deploy and manage security solutions. What we’ve seen in the last few years is the proliferation of new kinds of security threats – spyware, phishing, rootkits, etc. In response to each new threat, companies are forced to deploy new point solutions, and it’s become a management nightmare trying to manage all these different solutions. So companies are really looking for security that is “baked in” to their infrastructure – security that’s consolidated on a single management platform that stretches from the server room to the desktop and out to the network edge.
We’ve responded in the last year with the launch of 10 security products across the client, the server, and the network edge – products like ISA 2006, Forefront Security for Exchange, Forefront Security for SharePoint, IAG 2007 and Forefront Client Security. These products integrate well with existing Microsoft infrastructure, and now we’re going to be taking it to the next level. Last month, we announced our next generation Forefront security solution codenamed “Stirling” – a unified product that provides comprehensive, integrated protection from the desktop, to servers, to the network edge, all managed from a single console. “Stirling” will include the next-generation versions of Forefront Client Security, Server Security and Edge Security and Access solutions, plus a unified management console. With one management console, “Stirling” enables IT managers to centrally set policy, configure, deploy and manage security within their IT environment. With “Stirling,” taking control of securing and managing an organization’s IT infrastructure becomes easier and more cost-effective.
PressPass: What are you doing to prepare partners and help them grow specialist skills in business security?
Hassall: We’ve solicited a great deal of feedback from our partners, and we’ve made some changes to our partner program in response. Firstly, we’re evolving our Security Solutions Competency (SSC) in line with the needs of the ever evolving security threat landscape and customer needs. We will be merging the two existing specializations, “Secure Management” and “Secure Infrastructure” into one specialization, called “Secure Infrastructure” which reflects the continued convergence of Security and Management. We’re also creating a new specialization called “Identity and Secure Access,” which reflects that managing user identities and secure access is a security solution that requires specialist skills. These two competencies better align the Security Solutions Competency with the Microsoft Forefront and Microsoft Identity and Access products, and prepare partners for the increasing need for integration of security and management. With an SSC specialization and new Microsoft Forefront and Microsoft Identity and Access MCP certifications, partners really have an opportunity to differentiate themselves in the market and show their expertise.
Secondly, we’re extending our SSA program. Currently partners who are involved in the recommendation process and serve as the primary Microsoft security software implementation partner can earn fees of up to 30 percent on selected products. In recognition of the tighter integration of management and security, we’re extending the SSA program to include Microsoft infrastructure-related competencies, including Advanced Infrastructure, Network Infrastructure, and Information Worker competency partners.
We’ve also had a lot of success with customer engagement. We’ve launched a global Forefront advertising campaign targeted to IT Pros in 28 countries that involves both print and online media. The response has been enthusiastic. We’ve distributed a lot of software – over 1.5 million downloads and trials of Forefront in the last year. We also saw keen interest by the media, where the Forefront story got extensive coverage.
PressPass: How should your partners be engaging customers in discussions around security?
Hassall: Partners need to be thinking about security more holistically when they talk to their customers because security needs to tightly integrate across the entire IT infrastructure, and because security solutions need to be tailored to provide fine-tuned protection for business-critical applications. The only way to make sure that essential resources are available when they’re needed is to ensure they are both secure and well managed. So customers need solutions that help to secure and manage their environment that leverage existing infrastructure investments. You want to talk to your customers about how Forefront products can make your infrastructure more secure and easier to manage at the same time, with products like Forefront Client Security with Windows Vista and System Center, and Exchange with Forefront Server Security. Structurally, you want to talk about the advantages of a “defense-in-depth” security strategy – where you set up layers of security at the client, on the servers, and at the edge, and how Forefront can bring all of these things together in a way that’s easier to manage.
PressPass: How does Microsoft’s approach differ from other partner ecosystem programs?
Hassall: The Microsoft Partner Program, like many others, has multiple levels or tiers of partners, but we also offer competencies as a layer on top that highlights the specialist skills and business expertise the partners have within the program. Microsoft competencies and specializations enable partners to expand their skills, deliver more high-margin value added services, and become a trusted IT partner by leveraging training, certifications and support that help them stay one step ahead of the competition. Also when you partner with Microsoft, you can take advantage of the new market opportunities created by Microsoft products, backed by the industry’s largest investments in research and development. Sold as a complete solution, infrastructure products like Forefront and System Center, to secure and manage Exchange, SharePoint or Windows Vista maximize partner’s opportunities to deliver complete end-to-end solutions and services to more customers that will help to grow their business.
Microsoft’s partner programs and incentives, such as the SSA program, together with competitive sales intelligence and guidance enable partners to compete more effectively, close more deals, and therefore grow their profits. We’re also investing to help partners take full advantage of the business opportunity around Forefront. We’re committed to developing an industry-leading security partner program.
PressPass: What should partners expect and plan for in the next 12 months?
Hassall: Microsoft Forefront is driving a huge partner opportunity and customer benefit with a strong product line-up and roadmap, a long term strategy and vision, and comprehensive partner incentives and programs. We’re committed to bringing to market an integrated set of security solutions and delivering on the convergence of security and management. Our partners play a crucial role in delivering this integrated vision, and we are focused on building an ecosystem of security experts and investing in training, marketing support, and field support to aid them in building their businesses.
Microsoft partners who are not in the SSA program should sign up, and consider attaining the Security Solutions Competency, which will really differentiate them in the market. Partners should also start thinking about how they can drive revenue by attaching Forefront to existing infrastructure solutions, build Forefront into their business practices and service offerings, and look for ways to engage with Microsoft on security, because it’s going to be a great year.