SonicWall Inc. has added new partner categories to its channel program to recognize partners that product sales services without onsite visits.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based IT security vendor said it is adding two new categories, one for DMR (direct market resellers) such as CDW and Dell, which sell high volumes of a broad set of security solutions; and one for VAM (value-added merchants), resellers of solutions and services with industry or regional specializations, whose primary sales and support mechanism is via phone or Web. SonicWall said it is the first vendor to create a program for the VAM category.

“The old partners hate the new categories,” Mike Valentine, vice president of Americas Sales at SonicWall acknowledged. “But the more educated VAR accepts it. They understand they make their money from services as opposed to a guy who just sells a box. People just in there to sell boxes won’t be a strong player in our program.”

But some VARs didn’t mind the new categories.

“There’s a place for it, and they are doing the right thing by addressing it,” said Deepak Thadani, president of SysIntegrators, LLC, a SonicWall Gold partner based in Woodside, N.Y., just outside of New York City. “It’s smart of SonicWall to acknowledge there is a need to manage those types of players because they do exist in the market.”

The new categories expand the vendor’s existing program which previously shoehorned all partners into Gold, Silver or Approved categories. For the new categories of partners, which typically run on lower margins, SonicWall increased the discount, according to Valentine.

These new partners, most of which previously were classified as Gold partners, will now get a segmented sales force, Valentine said. In addition, the Value Added Merchants must keep at least one SonicWall certified employee on staff.

Dreaming Tree in Indianapolis, a former Gold partner, is now in SonicWall’s VAM category.

“SonicWall has recognized the type of market we cater to and how we do business,” said Brian Reed, president of the company. “As far as it affecting our business overall, I don’t see a huge change. We’ll continue to do business the way we always have.”

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SonicWall’s partner program revamp also includes a formalization of market development funds. Previously an ad hoc process, now partners will know how much money they have in their MDF account. Gold and Silver partners will now also have access to field marketing people to help advise on how to spend those funds. SonicWall is offering three such field marketing representatives, one for each region of North America.

These partners are also required to have at least one employee on staff who holds a SonicWall certification, something that the vendor is now scrutinizing more closely with the help of, software that SonicWall rolled out internally in the middle of last year to help keep track of its partners.

In addition, SonicWall is now offering more support to Approved partners, providing each one with a single point of contact at the company’s headquarters to simplify communications.

Still missing from the program is deal registration, something SonicWall has avoided due to inaccuracies and potential cheating.

“Somebody in a small town could get the Yellow Pages and register every major corporation,” Valentine said.