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Computer Associates is allowing SMB resellers to source its small and midsize business protection suites from distributors, a shift from a policy of making partners get the products from direct-selling online sellers.

CA plans to announce March 23 in a Webcast to partners that resellers can own the sale directly and deliver the suites from distributors D&H Distribution, Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data. The program begins April 1.

Under the previous model, resellers sold two of CA’s six SMB security suites by directing customers to one of six volume resellers, including CDW, PC Mall and The other model allowed VARs, as Trusted Influencer Agents, to earn a commission for directing customers to CA’s Web site, where they would download the suites.

The measure is designed to broaden the vendor’s avenue to the SMB market by increasing VAR participation, said George Kafkarkou, CA’s senior vice president of SMB and consumer channels.

“This will act as a catalyst to increase demand,” Kafkarkou said. “We expect partners to create the marketplace. … As we did focus groups, the one thing we saw again and again in the SMB [space] is that SMBs typically have a great relationship with an SMB VAR with whom they work and medium-size businesses have a great relationship with a medium-size VAR. They unequivocally make their decisions with the VAR in mind.”

The protection suites are designed to protect SMBs from the basic security threats they face, including antivirus, spyware and back-up and recovery.

The maneuver is the latest of several CA has made in the SMB space since last year as it tries to capitalize on market opportunity there, Kafkarkou said.

In conjunction with the launch of the SMB suites, CA announced a plan to penetrate the market on the backs of Microsoft’s 150,000 SMB VARs. Those VARs were each mailed copies of the suites and offered resources to become sellers of the products, all of which are built around Microsoft small-business technology such as Small Business Server 2003 and Windows XP.

The majority of CA’s 600 new SMB VARs have come from Microsoft’s partner ranks, Kafkarkou said.

The vendor also launched an SMB Specialist Track, which provides specialized training and resources for VARs proven to have special skill in reaching the SMB.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include information about CA’s Webcast to partners.