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Tue 21 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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The face of security

Security distributors are privy to the changing trends of the market, more than their broadline counterparts. NME talks to four of these niche distributors on how evolving trends will affect the Middle East market.

Security distributors are privy to the changing trends of the market, more than their broadline counterparts. NME talks to four of these niche distributors on how evolving trends will affect the Middle East market.

Specialised security distributors are not rare in the Middle East, but they are not common either. By becoming skilled delivery vehicles in their security niche, these distributors enjoy a crystal ball view of the segment that is closed to most others, so when they predict trends, one would be better off listening.

"Integration and consolidation of technology and vendors is the major trend that will shape the security market of the region in the near future. I predicted Websense and SurfControl, but I don't know which ones now. Obviously, I know the roadmaps of the vendors, but I can't reveal these. All I can say, however, is that there are some significant technological mergers just around the corner next year," says Lee Reynolds, managing director for the Middle East and Asia at Computerlinks.

Education clearly drives adoption. We have seen that every time we run education initiatives, we get immediate return on investment on that activity.

Zafar Shabdiz, managing director for Secureway agrees saying, "Mergers and acquisitions will play a big role in the near future. A few large companies will try to snap up specialist market niche leaders to round out their portfolios. How smartly these large companies manage the acquisitions is the question. They have the power to develop, or kill, the newly acquired company by enforcing their traditional non-fit strategies on them."

Apart from these larger, global and regional trends, these distributors predict that more and more specialised security practices will start to see the light of day in the region.

"Increasingly more system integrators (SIs) will focus on setting up security practices or companies. This trend is already happening and there will be more spawning of dedicated security practices. We will also see clear differentiation in the partners in their security offerings. It will no longer be acceptable for partners to go in and sell security as part of their infrastructure offerings. You will see more investment in specialist resources and certified personnel from partners," states Guru Prasad, general manager for networking at FVC.Along with this comes the demand for highly trained personnel, and some distributors in the region are already rising to the task.

"One of the major trends will be that all security distributors will keep investing more and more in educating, and making sure that partners have the right skill set to understand needs and address the market appropriately. This has not been happening much, and it is more vendor-driven rather than distributor-driven when it does. However, I think, distribution will start taking an interest because as the revenues grow they will have more of a circle of cash to invest in training," says Ajay Chauhan, CEO of Comguard and Spectrum.

Many of these specialised distributors believe that vendors need to get more involved and deliver more for developing the market in the region.

One of the major trends will be that all security distributors will keep investing more and more in educating, and making sure, that partners have the right skill set.

"There is always more that can be done in the region. I think more investment in terms of people from the vendors is necessary. I also believe vendors need to engage more with the government to driver faster regulation in the region. That is something that the larger vendors tend to do, but I think these core security vendors, who really focus on these specialist areas of security, don't really take that as seriously as they should," states Prasad.

Chauhan agrees, adding, "Vendors could open their offices in more areas, because most of them are still working through distributors. The new offices across more areas in the region are necessary if they want to be seen more, and they will need to invest more in their own resources, rather than just rely on the distributor's resources. They also need to meet customers one-to-one."

"Vendors also need to invest more in terms of educating end-users and partners on the kind of threat scenarios that can occur, and what the next level of threats are. They should also interact with the media to get more articles written on the subject. They have to bring out what other things have happened globally, and give some real life examples of what has happened in the developed market, and how the knowledge can be drawn up. That way, people here can be protected before any attacks can happen," he adds.Apart from increased interaction with end-users, security distributors are also clamouring for more interaction from vendors with channel partners and resellers.

Some of them are even demanding that security vendors in the region integrate and include the demands of value-added distributors when forming and implementing partner programmes for the Middle East.

Even in the rapidly growing security market, or because of it, many distributors are facing their own specific challenges. Key among these is the retention of trained personnel and the rapid integration of security vendors, as mergers and acquisitions increase.

"Education clearly drives adoption. We have seen that every time we run education initiatives, we get immediate return on investment on that activity. We want to do more of these and more standard-based initiatives across the region. We want to scale these from the UAE to KSA, Lebanon and Egypt, which are key markets that are driving security today. And this is a challenge," says Prasad. FVC is one of those who are already working on putting together programmes to drive and scale their objectives.

Regional security distributors are working to overcome these obstacles, even as they face upto a changing security landscape in the region.

"Storage security - there is a key need in the market today and we see it as a faster growing area in the next six to 18 months," says Prasad.

"We are very bullish about the storage security market and the vendors are already working on some very strategic initiatives in order to implement security over storage solutions. For instance, look at EMC's acquisition of RSA. I think the Middle East is ready to adopt storage-security solutions, and that is how many system integrators and distributors will react," states Prasad.

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