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Cloud security is changing the security channel partner model

March 25, 2019 - 4 min read

Digital transformation and cloud security have led to a dramatic shift in how enterprises manage their applications and infrastructure. These two trends have developed into business necessities and have also changed the relationship between the enterprise and its channel partners.

In business, there’s always a bit of tension between a buyer and a seller. By definition, in an exchange, both sides need to feel as if they’re getting a good deal. In just about any deal, there is an agreement on a price but a difference of opinion on the actual value. For instance, when you sell your house, you’re happy to sell it for a certain price and somebody else is happy to buy it, but each side has different motivations.

That dynamic tension is even more pronounced in the world of technology. With the large, complicated technology deals that companies and vendors construct, many enterprises create a partner network designed to take care of the needs of the business. But naturally, the partner network also has to take care of itself. This can lead to a delicate balance that can be all too easily disrupted when it becomes clear that the partner is taking more care of itself than of its client.

Right now, these types of disruptions are happening frequently in the cybersecurity market as companies shift toward cloud-based cybersecurity services. The partner ecosystem that exists today is dedicated to, and designed for, the world of the past where different software or hardware appliances needed to be integrated and managed. Many of these vendor partners are resisting any change to this world because their very existence is predicated on being able to make money managing and selling actual devices and maintaining integrations between them. In this new world, however, there isn’t the same need for these services or products because much of cloud security has moved away from appliances.

Don’t get me wrong: companies still need partners, especially when it comes to enterprise technology as large corporate networks are so complicated to configure and optimize. Businesses still need outside experts. But partners need to evolve what they bring to the table and how they approach their offerings.

We’re already seeing this evolution as new partners and vendors born in and designed specifically for the cloud are motivated to manage and integrate cloud services that don’t involve selling physical hardware or babysitting infrastructure over the course of its lifetime. Managed service providers in the cloud are focusing more on adapting to a company’s processes and making their services fit the individual business.

The consequence of this evolution of partner-enterprise relationships is that many companies are trying to figure out who their best partners will be for the future while juggling a complete digital transformation. Companies still need stability in their security, even in the cloud-based world, but their partners of old might not be able to provide this.

Some traditional partners are already recognizing this new playing field. They have begun redesigning their business and incorporating small, born-in-the-cloud consultancies and security practices as part of their service offerings. But partners must fully accept that the past is the past – the world of selling a hardware box and then making money ad infinitum from managing it is gone. That’s why companies find a purpose-built platform, such as Zscaler’s, so appealing. We manage the complexity of the cloud-based environment, in which companies can achieve significant cost savings and efficiencies by replacing their hardware and system integration with a cloud-based focus – and all with industry-leading cloud security.

Companies are responding to these born-in-the-cloud partners because of the specialization of their offerings and because they are much nimbler than partners still dedicated to selling servers. That’s why I expect to see more niche cloud-based partners spring up and uproot many of the established technology partners who are clinging to the past.

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Scott Robertson is Zscaler Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan

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