Ajay Dubey, Senior Channel Manager, Forcepoint
Having several differentiators such as ‘Dynamic Data Protection’, Forcepoint is bullish on the approach of providing ‘human-centric’ security solutions to its customers. The company also aims to become the most formidable cyber security company by 2020. In an interaction with CRN, Ajay Dubey, Senior Channel Manager, Forcepoint, shares more details
Please share some of the recent cyber security initiatives at Forcepoint?
One of the first things that Forcepoint, as a brand, did is that we focused on cyber security to solve some of the fundamental problems which the market was not able to solve. Every year, there have been numerous cases of data breaches and cyber attacks which tend to grow year-on-year. Thereby, customers are also spending more than the previous year. To break this pattern of expenditure and attacks, we came up with the concept of human-centric cyber security. We need to look at cyber security from a completely different angle; not confined to perimeter security, data protection, firewall etc. At the recent RSA Conference, our concept of human-centric cyber security was rated as one of the top 20 products.
At the RSA Conference, we launched Dynamic Data Protection, which is more of a converged solution that is user behaviour based. Whereas, most of the data protection solutions currently available are content-based. We are adding the user behaviour analytics on top of this, forming Dynamic Data Protection.
The necessity for such products is driven by the dynamic nature of the cyber landscape today. Many business critical application are moving to cloud. A major concern for CISOs today is that data is lying everywhere and people are accessing it from anywhere. The existing solutions in the market solve some of the problems, but they are doing so in independent silos. CISOs express that once things go on cloud, they lose visibility and control. Human-centric security makes the invisible into visible, giving you the same control as in the case of on-premise. Cloud is a significant disruptor and our solutions are helping our customers to secure themselves in their cloud journey.
How critical has been the role of partners in building confidence among your customers?
All of our products and services are delivered through the channel, unlike some of our competitors who offer direct services and put the partner ecosystem under threat. We strive to remain 100 per cent channel driven, which gives our channel a lot of stickiness with us. Our channel partners have grown significantly and they are able to leverage all of our product lines, cross-selling and up-selling them into the existing customer base. This, being a subscription model, created a stream of recurring revenue for them.
With the emergence of as-a-service model, are there increasing opportunities for managed services providers?
Inreasingly, for system integrators (SIs), there will be substantial business from services and license resale; thereby opening doors for managed security service providers (MSSPs). MSSPs for us, in some cases, will be the resellers who upgrade themselves as MSSPs, alongside the classical MSSPs who add security in their portfolios. One of the particular offerings is the Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), which is offered as managed service as well. There are markets where people are bundling services and products together are offering them to customers. MSSPs are now becoming critical.
What’s the support provided by Forcepoint to value-added resellers, in terms of building capabilities?
Typically, when channel partners sign up with us, they begin with absence of skills. However, they have security in their roadmap in terms of offerings. Customers also push SIs to provide security solutions, thereby giving them a market opportunity. For all such partners who have recently signed up with us, we offer both pre-sales post-sales support – either directly or through outsourced model, wherein they can choose to work with our other existing partners.
Many security players have emerged in recent times. How differently is Forcepoint positioning itself among partners and in the market?
There are two major unique factors. Firstly, ours is a subscription based business. For instance, when a partner sells to enterprises or governments, every year there is a revenue stream for the partner – these revenue streams are highly predictable. The second reason why our partners find our technology enticing is the stickiness that’s created with the customer. Stickiness with customers is crucial for partners, because it allows them to sell other products and solutions as well.
Partners are able to provide value to the customers; for example, in the form of DLP, which is not an off-the-box solution. There is a fair amount of services, wherein customisation is involved – you have to continously work with customers. This is what builds stickiness and Forcepoint solutions provide that.
With the evolving threat landscape, company boards are now also part of the decision making, alongside CISOs. How has this changed your market approach?
Right from the lower levels of an organisation to the board, all are aware of cyber security and they are willing to look at multiple solutions. Today many organisations have bigger budget for security. The board is interested in knowing the security strategy. We are glad to see the board showing interest in understanding security policies, creating a security strategy and implementing it step-by-step. From a partner and VAR perspective, the budgets have increased.
We constantly help our customers to chart out a cyber security strategy. If they already have a strategy in place, we try to understand their business objectives, and map solutions accordingly. Today the discussions with customers are strategic in nature; it has moved from product based to cyber posture and strategy based. A cyber security VAR is now a trusted security consultant for the customer. The security posture is not static, it is dynamic in nature. Fine-tuning the security posture is where channel partners and VARs play a critical role.
Could you elaborate on the enablement and accreditation programmes for your partner ecosystem?
We have four tiers of partners, depending on the market they operate in, and the business they generate. Besides, we also have an exclusive MSSP partner. We also conduct exclusive marketing events and customer acquisition events with our top partners. Moreover, we also provide market development funds (MDFs) for top partners, depending upon the market. These funds are used to conduct joint activities such as skill development, client acquisition, awareness building, etc.
What’s the total strength of your partner ecosystem?
Across the four tiers, we have around 25 active partners in India. In addition, we have around 600 associate partners. We have recently launched our MSSP programme, and we are actively looking at viable prospects. We are already in talks to some of the large service providers and some of our resellers. We are largely involved with the enterprise and mid-market customer base in India.
Are there any plans for channel expansion?
As we add more and more products and technologies, we will look at more VARs. We are glad to see that some of the large SIs in the country are willing to align with us. Some of which include Sify, Inspira, IBM and Frontier.
What is the company’s roadmap and thrust areas for the near future?
Due to our leadership in India, we have grown well in the market. We have large targets for this year as well. Going forward, by 2020, we see ourself emerging as the formidable cyber security player. Our thrust areas will revolve around human-centric security, wherein data protection will be a key focus area. This will be followed by NGFW, which can compete with SDWAN solutions one-to-one. Another thing which is unique to our solution is ‘zero touch’ deployment, which saves a lot of time.