Cato Networks has responded to claims that its technology will "alienate" partners, arguing that resellers should be driven by customer demand and not their own agenda.
The vendor, whose technology is billed as a replacement for traditional security and network infrastructure, launched into the UK channel last year with distributor Ignition Technology in search of UK partners.
Cato caused a stir at Ignition's recent partner event, with one reseller claiming its next-generation technology could alienate channel firms that have built their business on more traditional forms of security.
The networking and security vendor was started by Check Point founder Shlomo Kramer, and claims to eradicate the need for solutions including firewalls, SD-WAN and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) by converging networking and security into one solution.
David Lannin, director of technology at security reseller Sapphire, previously told CRN: "Perhaps the most disruptive vendor in Ignition's portfolio is network and security vendor Cato Networks.
"There was a room full of resellers that have been selling security technology to their customers for in some cases 20 years and now Cato Networks are coming in and talking about ripping out that technology; ripping out that investment in security infrastructure, in favour of moving to the Cato cloud where security is embedded.
"I don't follow that - it's great if you're a greenfield site and you don't have that security already, but for a reseller community where they're talking about actively stripping out those elements that you've worked so hard to get into your customers, I don't think that's a great pitch."
Cato vice president Yishay Yovel told CRN that channel firms that are not willing to adopt new technology run the risk of losing ground to more forward-thinking competitors.
He added that the channel's decisions should be driven by customer demand - not its own agenda. He explained that as other areas of IT experience convergence in places such as storage and compute, it is only natural for security and networking to do the same.
"We think the customers would want it," he said. "Before we ask the question about the channel, we have to ask what is good for the customer.
"The channel will be driven by what customers want, and we think that simplification and offloading management and complexity from enterprise IT to a third party - a vendor or managed service provider - is something customers want."
Yovel said that the channel should be looking to strike while the iron is hot with Cato and look to take a genuinely new solution to their customers, instead of taking on the more difficult sell of pitching an identical product that is just from a different vendor.
"Let's say a certain partner sold a Fortinet firewall," he said. "If I want to compete for that business I have two options.
"I can compete with a [similar] solution - so let's say the customer has a Fortinet firewall, I can come with Sophos or Barracuda and then the customer has two boxes to choose from, they're commoditising and everything looks the same. It's a price issue and no one really wants to be in that business.
"Or you can have a channel that says 'I'm going to come with something new. Instead of the customer managing 20 boxes in 20 locations I will propose eliminating them and having a whole new model that will cut complexity and the people they need'.
"Here is a way to differentiate against the legacy solutions which are all the same and as a result make it hard to make the customer move from one to another."
Scott Holmes, director at Zones, said channel partners should consider themselves to have a duty to offer their customers the technology possible, even if it presents problems for them in the short term.
"My outlook on technology and disruption in technology - which has fuelled our growth and engagement with Cato and similarly disruptive organisations - is that as a channel partner we can't be putting our intentions or best interests first," he said.
"Ultimately, if something comes along that will fundamentally change how customers work for the better - whether it's cheaper, faster, more secure - we have a duty of care if we want to include the 'value-added' before 'reseller'.
"We've seen in the security space the advances of things such as Palo Alto Networks and Cylance - innovation in security is not only happening, it is fundamentally required by customers to keep pace with the threats. Are we going to throw all our bets behind that one horse? Of course not. We need a stable of offerings. If it cannibalises revenues that we already have, then tough for us - we need to make sure we're keeping pace with the market."
Sean Remnant, chief strategy officer at Cato distributor Ignition, said that the benefits of Cato's solution go beyond security and can replace expensive MPLS systems that previously had no alternative.
"The advantage for the channel partners is it gives them the ability to sell not only cloud-based managed security services, but also managed connectivity solutions," he said. "The way that we have historically done [network] business is with hub-and-spoke networks, private datacentres, and that lent itself very well to MPLS circuit and expensive connectivity.
"Now businesses use cloud-based applications, their data is in the cloud and their users are geographically dispersed, we now no longer need those expensive MPLS circuits so there is a great opportunity for the partners to sell alternatives and support them.
"It also makes partners more sticky because they are selling the WAN as well as the security and it gives them the ability to wrap services around it."
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