Fortinet expects significant growth from MSSP partners

Jitendra Ghughal, Director, Channels – India and SAARC, Fortinet

Fortinet, last year, has revamped its MSSP partner programme, alongside introducing new
offerings for its MSSP partners. Jitendra Ghughal, Director, Channels – India and SAARC, Fortinet shares the company’s position and plans ahead

How has been Fortinet’s performance last year?
In the first three quarters of 2017, we saw significant growth; and we are happy with the growth that we delivered in India and the SAARC region. The highlight is that we have not just grown our business of the flagship Fortigate products, but also other products that are part of Fortinet Security Fabric range. Fortinet Security Fabric is not just one concept or solution; it is about combining and integrating multiple solutions and ensuring that they work well. It’s also a broad portfolio of solutions which work in an automated manner and provide intelligence that customers require – for them to understand what’s their threat landscape. Last year we have been successful in growing or business across our entire range of products.

As far as the channel structure is concerned, we have been doing pretty well in terms of number of partners, partner certifications, sales certifications and technical certifications. We have observed that there’s a lot of interest about network security institute; we have a security enablement learning centre, wherein we have exciting programmes for our partners.

What’s your roadmap and focus areas for 2018 and ahead?
In 2018, we will be focusing heavily on three market segments: telecom, government and BFSI. We have already started investing in these segments and we are going to see good results, particularly in the BFSI space. We have already seen a lot of success in the government segments over the last couple of years. Even in the telco space, we have been able to grow our business significantly. In the telco segment, particularly for our partners, we have revamped our Managed Security Services Providers (MSSP) partner programme last year; alongside, we have also come up with some new offerings for our MSSP partners. We expect that this year, there will be a major growth from our MSSP partners.

What are your efforts for partner enablement and skilling?
We have different approaches in terms of enabling our partners. Primarily, we have an online tool for partners – this is available through a common partner portal, through which partners get access to the sales training resources. We have also made technical training free for partners; whereas, previously partners were required to pay for technical training. Moreover, we have our resouces and we deliver classroom tranings; we also have third-party training centres for customised training or certain end-user training. We also invite select partners to our offices and provide trainings, depending upon our business plans with these partners.
We have a partners programme which primarily has four levels – authorised, silver, gold and platinum; alongside by MSSP gold and MSSP platinum for MSSP partners. For each of these levels, we have a clearly defined certification requirement for both, sales and technical. For the last four quarters, we have been running a promotion – which will also continue this year – wherein we are rewarding partners for completing their certification. For example, when an authorised partner completes the required sales and technical certifications, we provide rewards for that organisation by upgrading them to a higher level of partnership. We also provide them incentives of about $400. This is a mutually beneficial programme which ensures that partners get their resources trained.

We have this programme for all levels of the partner’s organisation. We also have technical and sales training programmes for different profiles of partners. For example, certain partners are only keen on selling our core techologies. Whereas, many other partners are interested in selling security fabric solutions. Thereby we follow and module based approach and we have designed different modules; partners can decide the products and solutions that they want to sell, and which segment they want to focus on. Based on this, partners can choose their modules. The best part for partners is that this is absolutely free; they
just need to register themselves
as partners.

How many partners are actively working with Fortinet?
We have around active 650 partners working with us throughout India, across all the categories. This includes partners having presence in India, but also working with us globally; such as Netmagic, Dimension Data, Accenture etc.

A typical reseller normaly buys the product and sell it to the customer. In terms of MSSP, there are different solutions, such as Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) based solution. When a typical telco partner sells services to customers, the partner would provide our product and manage the product from their data centre or security operations centre (SOC). They charge customers on a monthly basis.

There are other models as well, wherein they provide solutions on a multi-tenancy basis. Partners take our products, virtualise the solutions and assign a customer for each virtual domain and manage it from their premise. They deliver these security services from the cloud for customers, but it is managed completely by
the partner.

Do you think the role of MSSP will be predominantly critical than traditionl channel partners?
At this point of time, it is difficult to predict the direction of business, but we have solutions for both. Typically, large enterprise customers require security to be managed from their own premises. However, in the future, more and more SMB customers will move towards MSSP based solutions. Large customers such as banks or government organisations would like to keep security under their control. Smaller customers don’t possess enough resources, and they ideally want networking security requirements managed by a third party. It’s not just about management, SMB customers don’t even have to invest. We also have solutions such as Bring Your Own License (BYOL).

What’s the differentiating factor Fortinet has created in terms of channel programme?
The most important factor is the combination of resources, and tools – this is something that sets us apart. Apart from our NSE programme, we also have tools like renewal tracking portal for our partners, deal registration tool etc. Another offering, Cyber Threat Assessment Programme (CTAP), allows partners to implemeny box at a customer’s premise and register it with our CTAP domain, and run the box to generate a report. On top of that, we are also providing them incentives. For example, we are now providing incentives to partners for generating reports and closing deals.

What are the similarities or differences between your partners in India and other markets?
Partners’ approach in all markets are quite similar to each other, because the issue they are addressing is global in nature. Network security is not different in other countries. In some markets like Nepal, we don’t have many resellers who close deals on the role. A slight difference between India and Nepal is that in India, partners either depend on Fortinet or internal resources for sales; whereas in countries like Nepal – where we don’t have a direct presence – resellers depend more on our distributors.

Each market has its own requirements and we work accordingly, so we wouldn’t like to replicate best practices in other markets. We are happy with our performance across markets and we have been growing well in all markets. For instance, last year we marked huge growth in Bangladesh; we invested in resources a few years ago, and it provided us with the dividend.

What are the company’s expectations from the partner ecosystem?
Partners should have enough resources in terms of sales, pre-sales and post-sales – this will support our customers. Partners should also possess enough number of certifications that we require. We require partners to approach us proactively for the deals that they identify in the market. We do business only through partners, and partners are the ones who interact with the end-customers, so it is crucial for us to have interactions with our partners. We have a three tier distribution model. Our authorised distributor is not allowed to sell our products to an unregistered reseller. Even our partners are required to buy only from our authorised distributors.


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