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It’s a matter of when, not if. Eventually a customer will ask for some
feature, function or price point that just can’t be pulled off with the current
vendors’ product set.

At that point, a VAR can try to come up
with a custom solution from the products it already sells. According to a new
survey, however, an increasing number of VARs are finding it more
productive—and more profitable—to add an alternative vendor’s offerings to
their repertoire.

According to the research conducted by security and data backup specialist
SonicWall, many solution providers are finding that smaller, alternative
vendors can innovate and deliver customized solutions to solution providers
more quickly and cheaply than the larger market leaders.

SonicWall conducted the 2008 survey of 580 IT professionals both at Interop
and online. The survey found that 85 percent of the participants had upgraded
their security infrastructure in the last two years, and that 70 percent of
those had considered an alternative vendor’s networking security technologies.

The top reason most companies gave for straying from current suppliers was
that the alternative vendor offered a more comprehensive feature set, according
to 32 percent of respondents, followed closely by better service and support,
at 30 percent.

SonicWall clearly counts itself in that alternative vendor category. The
company trails Cisco Systems, Check Point Software Technologies, Juniper
Networks, Symantec and even Nokia Siemens Networks on Synergy Research Group’s
2007 list of top-grossing networking security companies. Cisco also has
overwhelming market share and owns much of the networking ecosystem, with a
broad portfolio of networking and security products, according to analysts at
Lazard Capital Markets.

As an example, SonicWall Director of Product Marketing Jon Kuhn points to
the recent release of his company’s NSA 2400 appliance, which takes advantage
of SonicWall’s RFDPI (Reassembly Free Deep Packet Inspection) 8 engine, and
uses a multicore design to inspect some 98 percent of network traffic. VARs
were often reluctant to deliver deep-packet inspection because of the expense
and the adverse impact on network speed and performance that typically
accompanies DPI. But Kuhn claims the new multicore appliances scale to any
size network without compromising performance, something the larger market
players have yet to achieve at the NSA 2400’s price point.

"We’re challenging you to go turn on all the monitoring capability you
can. Because we can do this faster and inspect more traffic than anyone
else," Kuhn says.

For Rick Bahl, owner of Quality Systems Solutions, partnering with SonicWall
was a question of feature set rather than agility. He said SonicWall’s UTM
(unified threat management) appliance, which includes a firewall, has helped
him move customers away from Microsoft’s ISA servers, which were difficult to
install, configure and manage.

"We went with SonicWall because it’s easier to include value-add
features—gateway anti-virus, gateway anti-spam—in a solution, and from a tech
standpoint, it’s a solid [UTM] product with good technical support," Bahl