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Comstor invests to build Cisco Security awareness

Comstor is investing heavily in boosting its Cisco security business, says Daniel Hurel (pictured), VP of its security sales and head of the Comstor Security Initiative (CSI). While the Cisco brand is powerful, not all its partners are aware of its range of offerings, he is finding.

His mission is to increase the sales of Cisco security from the current 10% of its partner base. He was GM for Westcon security in France for a number of years, and ran southern Europe for Westcon-Comstor, but is now focusing on the single Cisco brand in Comstor.

It is a challenging time as he looks to build on the Comstor Security Initiative, but since the distributor has just one vendor in this and sells one architecture – Cisco, there should be no dilution of message.

But the strength of the Cisco brand may be an issue. Is Cisco security a product in its own right? “We see more and more deals coming from enterprise networking as security becomes more involved in projects. It means we have all the solutions – data centres, networking and management in one place. The vision is to build the software license business and make sure we can specify the licenses on top of the hardware.”

Some 18 months ago, Comstor increased investing in security with Cisco, which after several acquisitions, including Duo Security, now has a comprehensive package. “The different pieces of the puzzle came to one big picture to ensure that there is a full offer, including solutions and services that can help resellers. Our goal is to understand the channel and help them meet the many challenges,” he says.

“It is not a silo – and we need the expertise in the channel. Our customers – the channel - are experts in networking, but we can add the security capability to their portfolio. The [Comstor Security] team has been built with that in mind. We can specify Cisco solutions even when integrated with another vendor solution. It is not just about security but making it easier to add security to infrastructure. “

IT Europa says: the issue of moving from point security solutions to a wider coverage, probably using managed security services will be a key topic for debate at the Channel Security event of the year on 14th March in London

Daniel Hurel is encouraged by progress so far in the 18 months he has been driving this and says the proportion of security business in the total has risen from below 5% and is now over 10% and growing fast. And there are stand-alone security projects as well as integrated Cisco business, he says.

In EMEA it has invested in local staff in major markets with CSI. The total Comstor investment is over 17 countries, more than 50 people and several million dollars of investment.

The key issue is awareness of Cisco solutions – there are several technologies involved. “Customers tend to think about a point solution and our mission is to make sure that Cisco security solutions are well known among resellers and that they know what they are – from authentication and DNS protection to email protection and end point protection. We need to transfer knowledge to the resellers. When they know about the solutions, they will take it into their customers.”

One notable boost is based on “pay as you use” where monthly billing is based on services. “This gives us access to the service providers who prefer to pay by use, this is completely different from other vendors’ offers. It is a journey for the channel, but we are finding many service providers adopting it as they don’t need to buy licenses upfront. The end-user customers are also asking to pay in this way. It is a very useful point for the customer.”

Service providers are the fastest growing part of the market for him – because of this new model for payments. “Not a week goes by without us signing several services providers using this ‘pay as you use’ model.”

It is a long journey to identify and qualify the partners for security, however – some are just not interested. He knows he now has around 20% of his Cisco partners selling security, but it is a question of expertise, and the level of investment to be made by the partners. It is a daily fight for them to get the skills and resources and ramping up for security.

“It is the same for all the security vendors, but perhaps a bit easier with Cisco as a big brand, but the quality needs to be demonstrated. If the end-user is looking for a complete solution and full coverage, there is no-one other than Cisco with all the technologies. The spectrum is very large. Resources are the key. And limited in this market.”

“Most of the resellers do not know about Cisco security; when we pinpoint technologies they are using and we can show them products such as Cisco Umbrella, then the door opens and we can talk about the different offerings. The reseller needs answers and has expectations and may not know that Cisco can meet their demands.”

“We will work on offers to build customers’ recurring revenue models and software renewals so that there is a stream created, with new services offered on top of what they had before. This is the task for this year.”