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Security vendors are courting VARs at this week’s CompTIA Breakaway conference to help them gain traction in the vast SMB market.

Security is atop the priority list of an increasing number of VARs and integrators, who say small and midsize business customers have great security needs, even if they don’t realize they have them.

For security technology vendors, these needs translate to attractive sales opportunities that some vendors have concluded can only be seized by working through the channel.

Among the vendors placing their bets on the channel are McAfee Inc., of Plano, Texas, and Panda Software, of Glendale, Calif., both of which are shifting their sales to indirect models.

“It just wouldn’t make any sense for McAfee to attempt to sell to SMBs directly,” said David Roberts, McAfee’s senior vice president of channels.

Both McAfee and Panda have brought aggressive VAR recruiting campaigns to Las Vegas this week, where the annual Breakaway conference is taking place through Friday.

Both companies promise to invest in VARs and integrators through training, marketing and technical support efforts as they seek to cut through the din surrounding the security opportunity.

For VARs, security has the appeal of recurring service opportunities because threats are evolving constantly.

That means security providers can bill customers on a monthly basis, especially if they are offering security through the managed services model, which allows them to remotely maintain and update the security infrastructure of their clients.

Both McAfee and Panda offer managed-services packages to VARs.

Managed services make it possible for services providers to take a proactive approach to security, as opposed to addressing the problem from the standpoint of remediation.

“It’s not about detecting problems any longer; it’s about blocking problems,” Roberts said.

McAfee in the past year has put a lot of effort into developing its channel strategy and recruiting VARs and integrators, Roberts said in an interview with The Channel Insider.

McAfee has only 14 direct accounts left, and 99 percent of its transactions in the last completed quarter were channel sales, he said. McAfee’s goal, he said, is to move all its sales through the channel eventually.

The company is beefing up its technical staff and adding consultants to support its channel partners, he said.

Read more here from columnist Pedro Pereira about security opportunities for VARs.

Panda announced in June that it is abandoning direct sales altogether, reassigning its direct-sales force into a supporting role for VARs and integrators. Patrick Hinojosa, chief technology officer at Panda U.S., said company sales representatives now have to engage a channel partner whenever they have a sales lead.

Panda is investing resources into training resellers and technical support, as well as taking care not to allow margin erosion so that channel partners can make money on selling the technology, he said in an interview with The Channel Insider. The idea is to protect the reseller’s business, Hinojosa added.

“You have to consider the reseller an integral part of your business,” he said.

Options and opportunities.

Panda, a Spanish company based in the city of Bilbao, is a recent entrant in the U.S. security market, but Hinojosa said the company can gain good traction through its channel strategy and its technology.

The company has developed technology that can address the evolving security threat by actually blocking unknown threats, he said.

Generally, security software can block only the threats that are already known, but this level of defense has becoming inadequate as threats increase in sophistication.

For channel partners, this presents an opportunity to add value for customers, he said. While other security vendors are fighting to displace one another at customer sites, Panda is offering something new, he said.

“They can go back to their current client base and offer them a solution without displacing existing solutions,” Hinojosa said. “It is a way to make money on top of what they’re already doing.”

For VARs and integrators, security has huge appeal. However, cautioned one of the VARs attending Breakaway, starting a security practice has to be done right.

“You can’t dabble,” said Emmett Lien, president of WorldNet Technology Consultants Inc., Wyomissing, Pa. “It is something for which you need to partner with best-of-breed, best-practices-type organizations.”

Building a practice from the ground up also is an option, he said, but companies need the right kind of expertise.

WorldNet built its practice after hiring a security expert, Lien said. Now, 65 percent of the company’s business is services with a strong security emphasis.

Whether a reseller opts for building a security practice from scratch or partnering, they should waste no time making a decision, said Gerard Kane, regional vice president of business development at Perimeter Internetworking, of Milford, Conn.

“The opportunity is now,” he said during a panel on channel security opportunities. “It’s a foot race.”

Perimeter, a provider of managed-services, is also courting VARs to resell its managed security and other services. The company launched a program on Wednesday to recruit partners.

Check out’s for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer’s Weblog.