SonicWall has revamped its SecureFirst Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) program. Most of the new capabilities are the result of a long consultation with partners and consultants. Additionally, SonicWall has also brought forward other capabilities that will allow MSSPs to be more reactive to the current business challenges for its customers.
The press release states: “Specific to the MSSP program tiers — MSSP Protect, MSSP Powered, MSSP Powered Plus — partners will be offered new program benefits including:
- “Expanded annual and monthly pricing model licenses
- “Aggressive volume-based pricing based on assets under management
- “Priority access to Premier Support tier 3 engineers
- “Increased access to MDF, including accruals for Powered Plus partners
- “Support from a new and expanding MSSP strategic account management team, globally
- “Addition of Secure Mobile Access (SMA) to MSSP portfolio.”
Enterprise Times talked to Terry Greer-King, Vice President, EMEA at SonicWall and Luca Taglioretti, Vice President, Global MSSP & Carrier Sales at SonicWall about some of the things in this announcement.
How are you addressing the need for new VPN licenses?
The moment Work From Home (WFH) became a thing, IT departments started to hit license troubles. It wasn’t just a lack of software licenses for all those “home” and BYOD computers. The biggest issue was the lack of VPN licenses. ET asked how will this make it easier for MSSPs to deploy licenses on-demand from customers?
Greer-King said: “We’ve had Spike Licensing for some time. It allows customers to increase their licenses for no additional cost for a short time. It was set at seven days. Three weeks ago, and in response to COVID-19, we extended the Spike program. Customers can now use it for 30, and in some cases, 60 days. We are looking at the possibility of longer Spike extensions.”
The Spike licensing program is part of the Secure Mobile Access (SMA) product features. So what impact has this had on sales?
According to Greer-King: “We have sold more SMA in one week than the whole of last year.”
Dealing with over-licensing and reallocation of licenses
But what happens when WFH ends? Customers will be over-licensed and will want a more flexible approach. Is there a way to reallocate licenses? It’s an issue that the software industry has often avoided.
Taglioretti answered: “We solved reallocation for customers two years ago. Users can install the VPN client on all their devices and switch between them without needing a new licence. We also added support for Follow-The-Sun licenses with our CMS product. What we are adding now is that same capability for MSSPs.”
This move is likely to be welcomed by MSSPs who have taken over customers’ infrastructures and who need a large pool of licenses that can be rotated.
Training and certification
There is nothing more irritating than customers call their VAR or MSSP with a problem and that problem being backloaded to level 2 support. How are you going to improve the capability of your MSSPs, and reduce your support load?
Taglioretti replied: “We have made a huge investment in the SonicWall University. Support teams at MSSPs cannot call the level 2 support without passing the training we provide. We have to make sure that they are servicing their customers.”
With some organisations getting rid of their level 1 support and using machine learning, AI and bots, ET asked what SonicWall was doing?
“We have done the knowledge transfer with our engineers,” said Taglioretti. “We have solved some questions with AI, and everyone is automating the data.”
What was interesting is that Taglioretti sees the ML and AI work also impacting tools. He told ET: “We have been working on ML and AI for over 20 years. We have created tools to give the visibility of what is happening with the customer. We are now sharing more data with the MSSPs and building a new partnership to give them the right tools.”
In addition, SonicWall is adding in new integrations to other vendors SIEM products. Taglioretto said: “We are also moving the capabilities of the tools forward by adding more integrations with other products.”
What does this mean for growth in your MSSP market share?
MSSP is a fast-growing market at the moment. Part of this is driven by SMEs who want someone to take over their security. Another driver is the lack of skills which gives MSSPs a large customer base to pull from. Given the investment in training and tools that both Greer-King and Taglioretti had talked about, ET was interested in how this will grow the MSSP program.
Greer-King replied: “We have 22,000 people registered as partners, 7,500 in EMEA alone. We are looking to transition people to be MSSPs.”
The problem with this statement is that you cannot merely move all partners to be MSSPs. Despite the market demand, there is not enough business. There are also problems in skills and competency. Is this about finding selected VARs to transition? The challenge here is that many VARs and to some degree System Integrators (SIs) are little more than distributors. It is more about shifting boxes than transitioning to delivering cloud services.
Greer-King agreed that choosing the right partners takes time. He also accepts that the criteria will need careful consideration. Perhaps the biggest barrier for many are the training and certification requirements that Taglioretti talked about.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Anything that addresses the problems in the security market is to be welcomed, providing it delivers value. SonicWall is addressing its MSSP market with these new announcements, and that makes sense. Many of them, however, are under pressure from customers given the current WFH situation. Bringing forward the changes to license models will be well received.
Forcing greater upskilling of the MSSP workforce is also a good move. Without this, they are little more than a distributor and their benefit is limited. What will be important is to see how quickly SonicWall can extend its MSSP market while retaining the levels of training. IT vendors have tried this before, and many have had to compromise to not upset large partners. Greer-King and Taglioretti do not indicate that there is any compromise to be had here, and that is good news.