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Except for partners who have been hiding under a rock, everybody in the channel recognizes what a big opportunity cyber-security is. These days, most IT organizations are having a very hard time finding cyber-security personnel. Even when companies can find staff, most of them can’t afford to hold on to these security pros because of the tough competition for their skills.

Because of this ongoing talent issue, many organizations are turning to channel partners to augment their security skills. The challenge is that many partners don’t have deep IT security expertise themselves.

To help partners attain those skills, SonicWall has opened SonicWall University, a channel enablement program designed to teach its partners how to implement and sell IT security solutions. It’s available to partners that participate in the company’s SecureFirst Partner Program.

Steve Pataky, vice president of worldwide security sales for SonicWall, said that since separating from Dell late last year, more than 10,000 partners worldwide have signed up to participate in the newly independent SonicWall’s channel program. The company claims that in addition to retaining the partners it gained access to when it was part of Dell, more than 20 percent of those 10,000 partners are new to SonicWall.

Of course, many of those partners may be returning to the SonicWall fold. When Dell acquired SonicWall back in 2012, many partners terminated their relationships with SonicWall. And there is still a significant segment of the channel that views Dell’s direct sales efforts as a competitive threat. In addition, the channel programs Dell put in place for SonicWall and other acquisitions were sometimes turbulent.

Naturally, competition across the IT security sector is fierce. But Pataky said that thanks to a shortage of cyber-security expertise and a sharp spike in successful attacks involving ransomware, demand for IT security expertise has risen sharply. The challenge is that given the overall shortage of qualified IT expertise, channel partners need to bring as much of their existing staffs up to speed on IT security solutions as quickly as possible.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is no cyber-security cavalry gearing up to ride over the hill to save channel partners and their customers. Solution providers of all sizes need to develop their cyber-security experts.

Most of that training will need to take place on the job. But the more channel partners can lean on the vendor community to get some of that training, the more likely it becomes that they can do something meaningful to help customers navigate through this major IT security crisis.