AlienVault's channel-friendly credentials have been called into question by several former partners of the security vendor who say it repeatedly took registered deals direct.
The unified security management specialist, which last August bagged $52m in Series E funding and is seen by Gartner as a SIEM ‘Visionary', made a big EMEA investment in mid-2014 when it launched new regional headquarters in Cork.
At the time, AlienVault acknowledged there was "legacy bad feeling" among UK partners, but claimed it was making a "serious commitment" to the channel this time around.
Several former AlienVault partners, however, say they found that the vendor's behaviour in the channel failed to match that rhetoric since that announcement.
For its part, AlienVault has emphasised that, since the bulk of the incidents occurred, it has taken on a number of seasoned executives with a channel pedigree, adding that it believed any cases of dissatisfied partners are "isolated" and "not indicative of our overall performance".
Lorna Burman, sales director at Devon-based reseller Axiom Secure, said AlienVault effectively undercut her on a six-figure deal with a university last July.
"I was dealing with the director of IT and one of their direct sales guys had engaged with a lower-level employee, so there was an argument about who got deal registration," Burman said. "I got it agreed by the VP of sales that he would honour it and work with me. The week I was expecting the purchase order, the customer said AlienVault had come in the day before and presented a whole new set of figures so had gone with them."
Burman said Axiom has now recently severed ties with AlienVault after being unimpressed with the way it handled pre-sales services for another large customer prospect in January.
"They were difficult and obstructive," she added.
Séan O'Brien, managing director of Stockport-based DVV Solutions, said he was one of AlienVault's first UK partners but had walked away from them a little over a year ago after experiencing similar issues.
O'Brien said he had invested "tens of thousands of pounds" into the relationship after receiving assurances that AlienVault was moving from a direct to a two-tier channel model.
"We didn't enter into that process lightly but we never recouped any of our investment," he said.
"We'd get approved deal registration and then found in several instances that deal registration was ignored and given to a different partner or ignored and taken direct. We were finding opportunities and working them, and then when it came to the financials they would take it direct."
AlienVault has snared roughly $116m in funding since it was founded in 2007. Last month, it unveiled the latest version of its open threat intelligence community, Open Threat Exchange, which it claims now sees over 10,000 members actively collaborating on emerging threats. Gartner ranked it as the only ‘Visionary' in its latest SIEM Magic Quadrant, behind five leaders in the market in the form of IBM, Splunk, Intel Security, HP and LogRhythm.
O'Brien felt that - at least in the period he worked with them - AlienVault was fixated with chasing sales at any cost under its VC backers.
"The business stance is to acquire new customers at any cost and through any route possible," he said.
An executive at a third UK partner, who did not wish to be named, said he had generated a pipeline of 10-15 AlienVault prospects before the relationship fell apart a year ago.
"One university client told me they were trying to bypass us," they said. "On various occasions they would speak to the client just before the deal went through, and always to the detriment of us. After the third time that happened, we started pulling back and at that time we had a healthy pipeline of 10-15 customers we had introduced the product to."
CRN first became aware that some resellers were discontented last summer, and we acknowledge that most of the incidents mentioned above happened over six months ago, but held off publication until more than one partner with which we were in dialogue felt able to go on the record.
In a statement, AlienVault said it had increased its investment in both its channel programme and personnel in the last two quarters. New hires include former Westcon executive Anthony D'Angelo, as vice president of worldwide channel sales and former FireEye executive Catherine Kelly, in the role vice president of EMEA sales.
Justin Endres senior vice president of worldwide sales at AlienVault, said:
"We strive to have 100 per cent satisfaction in our channel. During 2015, AlienVault more than tripled the number of partners it works with, and now manages a network of 285 MSSPs and over 900 partners globally. While any number of dissatisfied partners is too many, we believe these are isolated incidents and not indicative of our overall performance. We're pleased to say that our large partner base around the world was a significant contributor to AlienVault's 55 per cent year over year growth in 2015. We expect that contribution to increase in 2016 based on strong customer demand for our products, a growing partner base offering value added services, and continued investment in the channel.
"As in all business relationships, miscommunications can occasionally occur, which we always endeavour to sort out quickly and without disruption to the partner relationship or their customers."
Jeremy Hennequin, managing director of Audent Limited, which has been working with AlienVault for three years, said he had had only positive experiences of working with AlienVault.
"Not only that, their pre-sales team are excellent helping to ensure that the system meets the requirement and more," he said. "Close contact during the sales cycle ensures that we close business as early as possible in a professional way that suits our customers."
Another AlienVault partner who defended the vendor was Redscan, which has been working with the vendor since 2014 and whose CEO Mike Fenton said: "We have always understood the channel to be an important part of AlienVault's sales strategy, and that our relationship with them is valued."
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