One of the more contentious issues in the channel is over software license renewals because it cuts to the heart of the battle over who owns the customer: the vendor or the solution provider.

Many solution providers feel strongly that the license renewal process should belong to them because it’s a tactical opportunity to have a strategic conversation with the end customer about their overall IT strategy. For the solution provider, this creates a time when the customer is basically forced into having a forward-planning conversation with the customer that the solution provider then uses to do some basic revenue forecasting.

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But there are those on the vendor side that would argue that solution providers do a bad job of keeping track of software license renewals and this in turn costs the vendors revenue because the customer then becomes a potential prospect for their competitor.

Some even go so far as to create a “jump ball” environment surrounding license renewals where multiple solution providers are alerted to a license renewal opportunity, even if one particular solution provider brought in the original business.

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At least one vendor sees all the consternation over license renewals as an opportunity to create a channel program where the renewal process is squarely in the hands of the solution provider.

Sophos this week launched a revamped channel program that promises to drive all the license renewal business through the channel. Now, like McAfee and Symantec, Sophos has not been 100 percent focused on selling through the channel, but now swears that, going forward, all business will be driven through its channel partners.

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The Sophos direct sales force will be redeployed in a direct touch model intended to drive more leads to Sophos partners and down the road the company has ambitions of creating a Sophos channel ecosystem in collaboration with some of the OEM partners that currently resell the core Sophos security engine.

Admittedly, Sophos is making a calculated shift toward the channel at a time when it knows there is strife in the security channel over licensing that is compounded by concerns about over distribution, the entry of Microsoft into the space and the general movement towards giving away core anti-virus technologies within every application sold.

So it remains to be seen how well Sophos will do in the channel, but given all the concerns in the security channel today, they will probably have less of a hard time getting a hearing from potential channel partners than any other time in recent memory.