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Security giant McAfee sees incredible channel opportunities in 2009 and will leverage the recent acquisition of Secure Computing, rival Symantec’s channel turmoil and its own evolving community of solution providers to increase market share and solidify competitive advantage.

In a Web conference this week, McAfee’s executive vice president of worldwide channels Roger King told attendees that Symantec’s recent channel executive shakeup provided a great opportunity for McAfee partners.

“Symantec is our main target, so any kind of distraction or disadvantage they have we’ll highlight for our partners,” King says.

Symantec’s Lisa Loe, formerly senior director of strategic partner sales, defected to McAfee as vice president of North American channels in September. Julie Parrish, Symantec’s former head of global channels, also left Symantec for a similar position at NetApp.

In the wake of these channel shakeups, McAfee partners have helped the security vendor post 26 percent year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter, while competitors were either flat or reported negative growth, King says.

Regardless of McAfee’s growth, King says Symantec is still a strong competitor and a very important brand in the space.

Optimizing McAfee’s numerous routes to market will be a key focus in 2009, says King. McAfee will tweak programs that are tailored for solution providers targeting large enterprises, those whose customers are mostly SMBs and also distribution channels.

“Symantec is our main target, so any kind

 of distraction or disadvantage

they have we’ll highlight for our partners.”

Roger King
Executive Vice President, Worldwide Channels

McAfee will also focus on improving problem in the partner program that solution providers have identified in the past, including fast-tracking the vendor’s opportunity registration program. King says one of the priorities is to make the process faster and easier for McAfee partners.

“We’re continuing to work towards a 30-second process and also much faster turnaround on approvals when partners register an opportunity,” he says.

From a product perspective, McAfee’s recent acquisition of Secure Computing and the products that company brings to the market will be a major focus in early 2009, says Brian Foster, senior vice president of channel management at McAfee.

“Secure Computing has some of the best technology on the market and I’m excited to bring that into McAfee’s portfolio,” says Foster. Secure Computing’s Webwasher product will strengthen McAfee’s Web-content filtering capabilities, while its e-mail security products will be integrated into McAfee’s own product lineup, says Foster. But what’s really got McAfee and partners excited is Secure’s high-end firewall and unified threat management (UTM) appliance, Sidewinder.

“The Secure Computing firewall is one of the best-kept secrets in the firewall market. We’re excited for the acquisition based on that product alone, because we feel we’ll be able to gain a big advantage and more market share,” says Gordon Shevlin, executive vice president of McAfee partner FishNet Security.

Foster adds that the high-end firewall will also be a great product offering for McAfee solution providers selling into government customers.

Ironically, some of the Sidewinder firewall’s underlying technology has its roots in McAfee. In 2002, Secure Computing bought the Gauntlet firewall from Network Associates, the predecessor to the modern McAfee corporation. Secure Computing merged the Gauntlet code with its Sidewinder firewall to create the Sidewinder G2, which evolved into the current product.

For now Secure Computing’s and McAfee’s channel programs remain segregated. King and Foster say they are working carefully to integrate the two programs. Foster says in the first quarter of 2009, McAfee will institute strict training and certification requirements for partners selling each line, and the second quarter will see more heavy lifting as McAfee smoothes the transition for all partners.

“When we make acquisitions the three ‘A’s’ are most important: alignment, autonomy and accountability. We’ll put the two programs together when we are certain we are ready to,” Foster says.