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Q&A – With Jon-Marc Wilkinson, Director Sales, UK and Ireland at WatchGuard Technologies, and Tony Price, Director of Solutions at Northamber

WatchGuard has been a leader in firewalls for the last 25 years and for most of that time Northamber has been one of their main UK distributors. Although network security is still a key focus, WatchGuard also offers solutions in other areas, notably endpoint security (following last year’s acquisition of Panda Security), multi-factor authentication and secure cloud Wi-Fi. As well as providing channel partners with additional sales opportunities through its expanded product portfolio, WatchGuard provides an easier route to managed services with unified device management.

To find out more, Technology Resellercaught up with Jon-Marc Wilkinson, WatchGuard Technologies Director of Sales, UK and Ireland, and Tony Price, Director of Solutions at Northamber.

Technology Reseller (TR): WatchGuard is famous for its firewalls, but it has also been broadening its offering through acquisitions. What is the thinking behind your acquisition strategy?
Jon-Marc Wilkinson: It would be very easy for a company that has been in existence for 25 years to stay focused on firewalls, or unified threat management (UTM) appliances. But at WatchGuard we don’t like to stand still, so over the past few years we have acquired a few companies. This strategy is now accelerating to meet demand for more unified solutions.

In the mid-market, end user customers are asking partners to manage more of their IT infrastructure from a security perspective. Partners don’t necessarily have the resources to go out and manage multiple standalone products, so we are undertaking the hard work for them. We are going out and acquiring best-of-breed products and enabling partners to manage them all via a single pane of glass.

TR:One of these acquisitions is Panda Security, which WatchGuard announced one year ago in March 2020. Its endpoint EDR solutions are a useful addition for resellers who, as you say, are increasingly being asked to provide IT on a managed service basis. How else is WatchGuard addressing this demand?
Jon-Marc Wilkinson: Anyone who becomes part of the WatchGuardONE partner programme gets access to what we call our MSSP dashboard, which gives them a single interface for activating multiple devices and security services.

Customers today need additional flexibility when it comes to their IT environment. It is no longer a question of buying a solution and using it for the foreseeable. Businesses want agile solutions, which can be flexed, depending on current requirements.

A good example, which Northamber is taking to market, is our WatchGuard FlexPay or subscription billing option. FlexPay allows partners to offer their customers with various billing options, based around a monthly consumption model.

TR: Presumably, your choice of distribution partner becomes very important when you start transitioning Partners to managed services and hardware subscription models.
Jon-Marc Wilkinson: Yes, it does. We need distribution partners who are agile and able to rapidly take multiple technologies onboard. There’s a lot of investment, including the backend configuration of systems in terms of API integrations between the partner, the distributor and us.

It’s important we have distributors that have a good reputation in the marketplace and can take this service to the right partners.

TR: How else has Northamber helped ensure the successful integration of WatchGuard’s acquisitions?
Tony Price: Panda used to have a single-tier model and deal directly with resellers. So, at Northamber, one of the things we have done is help WatchGuard move that business to a two-tier model by taking ownership of the small resellers that used to take up so much of Panda’s time. So far, the take-up has been good.

The next phase is to try and convert some of our WatchGuard partners into selling that endpoint solution, because they may already have other endpoint solutions in place.

The other side of that is to recruit partners that don’t yet have any association with WatchGuard, perhaps by leading with the endpoint piece and then introducing them to the other parts of its portfolio. Because most of the products can be standalone, partners don’t have to buy everything at once; they can buy individual elements.

TR: How is WatchGuard developing its offering to help partners make sales in other areas, for example by selling wireless technology, endpoint security or DNS filtering technology to an existing firewall customer?
Jon-Marc Wilkinson:We have recently released WatchGuard Cloud, a multi-tier, multi-tenant architecture hosted in AWS that will enable partners to manage all our products via a single pane of glass. WatchGuard Cloud provides one central point from where partners can deploy, manage, and report on their entire estate. Consolidating management onto a single synchronized platform, allows partners to adopt multiple WatchGuard products and deliver multiple revenue generative services.

TR: I imagine that Northamber’s customers will welcome the further development of WatchGuard Cloud.
Tony Price: The types of partners we deal with are always looking at ways to increase efficiency and WatchGuard Cloud will save man hours because they can manage everything from one central point. It will enable their business to be more efficient and enable them to create revenue-generative services that they can pass through to the client.

TR: You are clearly empowering existing resellers to increase sales of WatchGuard products. Do you also plan to recruit resellers that might be new to WatchGuard?
Jon-Marc Wilkinson: We are targeting our existing partners and arming them with multiple ‘Go-To-Market’ tools, to develop their customer base more effectively. Equally, we feel there’s many verticals struggling with managing disparate security technologies. WatchGuard will be enabling both new and existing partners to deliver our entire portfolio into these customers using WatchGuard Cloud.

Tony Price: This is where Northamber fits in. We can onboard a partner into the certification-based WatchGuard ONE partner programme; we can help with the certification training and, once a partner is trained and looking to sell the solutions, we can offer training to their end users as well.

Resellers in the SMB market don’t have huge technical resources, so they depend on the likes of Northamber to help facilitate deals, to take part in pre-sale calls and, later, scoping calls.

One of the things we are really developing is our WatchGuard endpoint training course, which enables people to get onto the WatchGuard ONE programme much faster and without so much investment. We are running those courses bi-weekly at the moment, and they are starting to pick up.

Another key attraction is our status match programme, which removes one of the obstacles to changing vendor relationships.

If we reach out to a partner of another firewall and security vendor, who might be a Gold partner in their partner programme, we will match their commercials for a set period. Our programme is value-driven, which means you have to become certified, and that isn’t something that happens overnight. So, for a three-month or a six-month period we will match their status and give the same commercials while they get up to speed within WatchGuard ONE.

To find out more about WatchGuard solutions and the WatchGuard ONE programme, please visit: www.watchguard.com/wgrd-partners/channel-partner-program

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TechnologyReseller: 2021