For Sophos, a global player in network and endpoint security, 2018 will be focused around channel enablement and profitability. In an exclusive interview to CRN team, Sunil Sharma, Managing Director, Sophos India, talks about the company’s directions for its partner base and mid-market segment
As the network security threat landscape has become more complex and is targeted at mid-market. How, as a security vendor, are you going to address these challenges?
Sophos is a 100 per cent channel driven company; we understand the security threats and its landscape like no other vendor. We are investing heavily on product innovations and partners’ skill-sets for addressing the network security challenges of the mid-market segment. We have invested in developing next-gen technology that will enable us to secure businesses of all sizes across all platforms – on-premise or cloud, at the network gateway, servers, or endpoints.
Can you shed light on a recent acquisition of Invincea. How Sophos will integate it into its existing product portfolio?
We are excited to integrate the machine learning technology that we acquired from Invincea last year into our product suite, a next-generation malware protection solutions provider. With this acquisition, Sophos will add Invincea’s endpoint security portfolio to its endpoint protection strategy by leveraging Invincea’s patented deep learning neural-network algorithms that detect and curb unknown malware and sophisticated attacks. Invincea will strengthen Sophos’ leading next-gen endpoint protection with complementary predictive defenses that, we believe, will become increasingly important to the future of endpoint protection and allow us to take full advantage of this significant new growth opportunity. Sophos synchronized security solution is one-stop solution for our partners and we will be making more innovative solutions and expand our reach through partner-led programs.
What would be Sophos’ three key priorities for the India market in 2018 and beyond?
We believe in innovations and strengthening our product portfolio at a global scale; this way we can serve our customers much better. We continue to invest in building a world-class channel program and are delivering on our ‘Channel First’ promise. However, in 2018, our company’s motto has moved towards ‘Channel Best’. We do 100 per cent channel business, catered to SMBs and mid-markets. As we know these segments work in a small team, so pushing such partners to sell security products, we enable them with free training and we have a solution which can be managed by a single person with automated remedies. Today, security postures cover web, email or overall, security needs and our synchronized security solution is the one-stop solution for all the security needs. We want to enable our thrust on endpoint. It’s imperative that our partners are enabled and equipped on everything related to endpoint security.
How new technologies like AI and machine learning will make security products more robust. What new offerings Sophos has in this space?
We have announced the availability of Intercept X with malware detection powered by advanced deep learning neural networks. Combined with new active-hacker mitigation, advanced application lockdown, and enhanced ransomware protection, this latest release of the next-generation endpoint protection delivers previously unseen levels of detection and prevention. Deep learning is the latest evolution of machine learning. It delivers a massively scalable detection model that is able to learn the entire observable threat landscape. With the ability to process hundreds of millions of samples, deep learning can make more accurate predictions at a faster rate with fewer false-positives when compared to traditional machine learning.
The deep learning neural network of Intercept X is designed to learn by experience, creating correlations between observed behavior and malware. These correlations result in a high accuracy rate for both existing and zero-day malware, and a lower false-positive rate.
Being able to protect against the next unknown attack instead of waiting for it to arrive will change the way IT operations in every organization can protect their users and assets. Intercept X can bring the most advanced next-generation protection to any organization, regardless of their current strategy.
Traditionally, Sophos believes in sub distribution model and reaching out to smaller partners at large. How well are you entrenched in your distribution reach?
We are the only company to follow Tier II distribution model; our sub distribution model has paid off well since the Cyberoam days and now in Sophos we are strengthening it more with new channel friendly policy and programs such as Deal Registration program; we keep on recruiting smaller categories of partners to keep our sub distribution agile. We have progressive partner programs, with direct representatives of Sophos in top B and C class cities. Our tradional sub distribution model has been the key pillar of our partners. Our partners have been consistent in selling Sophos products in the mid market. As we grow our channel base, we have been emphasizing on focus and prioritizing security as a key component of their portfolio. They should continue to invest in people competencies as new age security technologies come to the fore. And they should adopt a scalable model for their business.
Today, channel is undergoing extreme employee retention problem. Being a channel friendly company, how big is this issue for your partners?
In my vast experience in channel business, I have seen evolution of channel from selling a typewriter to branded PCs, servers, networking solution and now cloud. But all this while, the fundamental challenge which most of the partners suffer is staff retention. Vendors like us train our partners, both pre and technical sales. But the stickiness is very low. In my view, channel has to invest in employees’ retention and follow MNCs’ standards and SOPs for keeping the team. The second part is that partners need to be dynamic and look for new business opportunities. Selling security as a box will not be enough for smaller partners. Today, we have programs which allow smaller partners to sell security as a service. Network security is another area for network partners to look beyond servers and storage.
What would be your key message to your security partners?
The key message to our partners is very clear: Do not treat your security business as just five-six per cent of your total business. I strongly believe that cyber security will be the core focus for any organization, be it large, medium or small. Today most of the CIOs and CTOs are more worried for protecting their IT infrastructure from any kind of cyber threats as most of their business is going on cloud. Hence, the need for the right security advisor is something most of these companies will be looking for. Therefore, partners have to be geared up for these emerging opportunities and start engaging with the right set of vendors that will result in high profitability.