When the world's largest chip maker, Intel, took over McAfee last year, some of the security giant's channel partners harboured concerns about the takeover, while the newly merged companies remained tight-lipped about their plans.
Worries that the $7.7bn (£4.9bn) cash deal would mean that the world's second-biggest security vendor disappear inside Intel were rife.
But at a press summit in Marbella earlier this month, the lid was finally lifted on what the merger might mean for resellers, with McAfee pouring praise upon its new $54bn-billion turnover owner and the positive impact it has subsequently had on the security channel.
The fragmented content security market is still displaying growth, according to research from Canalys, with McAfee recording year-on-year sales expansion of 32.3 per cent in Q1. This gave the vendor a market share of 12.8 per cent, allowing it to overtake Symantec at the top of the vendor leaderboard.
Additional brand power, product innovation and renewed channel confidence were cited as key benefits of the takeover.
Gert-Jan Schenk, president of McAfee's EMEA operations, concedes that there was initial worry among channel partners following the buyout.
"Over the last few years, there have been a lot of acquisitions, and the companies that were acquired have completely disappeared," he explained. "I have been in companies that have been acquired multiple times in the past. Human nature means that people think the worst, and they worry that things will be bad. In the beginning people were a little bit worried and wondered what would happen."
But Schenk (pictured) added that any uncertainty has dissipated, and that partners now have additional peace of mind.
He said: "The benefit of Intel acquiring McAfee, purely to do with the channel, is that [partners] think ‘this is safe, this is solid' and that Intel has a clear strategy and future for McAfee."
Schenk joined McAfee in 2010, leaving a similar post at rival Juniper. Also arriving from the networking and security vendor was David Small, who has served as vice president of McAfee's EMEA channel and commercial business since early last year.
According to Schenk has McAfee faced criticism in the past for lack of communication with its partners. But the EMEA boss claims the company has turned it around.
He said: "There was not enough communication, and this is something we have looked at very hard as a management team. I think we have become better listeners. When I came on board, we really tried to listen more to our partners. We didn't even do these sorts of partner events in the past. Now we have a partner advisory council with partners from all over the region giving their feedback and ideas on how we can improve.
"For my first few months, all I did was go to customers and say; ‘what do you think? How are we doing? How can we improve?' This was very important to me."
Helen Hall, managing director at VAR AVR International, which has been a McAfee partner for around 10 years, was at the partner summit.
Speaking after the event, she said: "There are has been an absolute change in McAfee's approach. The shift you have now is that there is not just a ‘yes, yes, yes' approach; things are actually changing, and for the better, especially over the last 18 months.
"If there is something wrong, I really will shout about it. All I care is getting solutions to sell to my clients, and this weight they have now in solving problems is enormous. They will admit if they are not the best at something and tell us how they will fix it for us.
"They make intelligent decisions about which companies to buy, they are buying in the right areas and putting all of their weight behind it. We can't fault the merger, where is the catch?"
Although some benefits for the channel can be seen immediately, the long-term benefits for end users may take longer, according to Neil Curran, managing director at healthcare IT consultancy and Elite McAfee partner, Blue Cirrus.
He said: "The only issue is that end users will only see benefits over time, but not now. As Intel move forward, this technology will become available, but it is not an immediate win. But customers will slowly realise the long-term benefits of Intel's acquisition of McAfee. It is the start of an interesting journey."
Risk and reward
In the next decade, McAfee estimate there to be 50 billion active end user devices, 25 million apps, and 50 trillion GB of data, claiming that these staggering growth statistics create unprecedented security risks.
With this in mind, McAfee's intends to tinker with its EMEA partner programme in 2012. Margin enhancement through discounted products, a rewards scheme linked to sales figures and fast approval for SMB deal registration are among the key planned.
Technical expertise is a key criterion for partners, according to David Small, president of its EMEA channel and commercial business.
He said: "As we become more complex in the solutions we supply, there is a certain level of technical expertise required that is from the partners. Not all partners have the wherewithal to deliver that kind of complex technology.
"Therefore, what we are looking for is the guys that are really capable and that can get out there and do that on our behalf and engage with customers at that level. The more products we can sell, the better we can protect our customers, which at the end of the day is our goal."
The Accredited Certified Engineer (ACE) scheme allows partners receive benefits after completing a shadowed demonstration of McAfee technology.
Small continued: "When a partners' pre-sale resource goes through the ACE certification process, we actually make sure they can deliver a proof of concept in the same way that we do. They actually do it on a customer and we shadow them and make sure that it is done properly.
"The great thing is, once they can do it; we push leads to them, we publish their accreditation to our sales team and they get preferential treatment.
"They invest and get skilled up, they get the benefit of being at the top end of the food chain and the visibility of being in our organisation, and then we put hard dollars behind them."
Sysec has been an Elite McAfee partner for over five years, and sales director, Andy Woolford, gave the ACE scheme a ringing endorsement.
"We've gone wholeheartedly into the ACE programme; we have been recently accredited for this," he explained. "Having a rubber stamp from McAfee saying that we are experts and an extension of the vendor, it really helps us to deliver a true value add for our customers."
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