Sophos updates partners on market landscape, with new support measures later in the year

The theme for the Sophos partner kickoff this year was Evolve, and a key element of this will be how partners can best evolve themselves, with Sophos’ support, to meet evolving cybersecurity challenges.

Kendra Krause, Vice President of Global Channels at Sophos

Sophos has wrapped up their partner kickoff, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which had 650 partners in attendance, up from 580 last year. This year, the focus was on Sophos’ view of the threat landscape and how Sophos partners can best position themselves to meet it. While some new programmatic initiatives will be forthcoming, they will not appear until later in the year.

“The theme of the conference this year was Evolve, which was very timely, and fit well with conversations we had around the event,” said Kendra Krause, Vice President of Global Channels at Sophos.

Three ‘subthemes’ were highlighted at the event.

“The first is how threats have become more sophisticated and dangerous this year,” Krause said. “This year we have seen new types of blended attacks, with some of the features of nation-state attacks. We have seen more attacks which start out automated, and then get manual when they get into the network. We have also seen a trend towards attacks getting in and out pretty quickly, which does not make them any less dangerous.”

The second subtheme is the growth of cloud computing and how it makes it more difficult to protect customers, as potential attack surfaces expand, and it becomes more difficult to maintain consistent security policies for both cloud and on-prem based assets.

“We are evolving to meet this and going ‘all in’ on everything cloud,” Krause. “Partners should be trying to move customers from on-prem to the next generation cloud, which is more secure, and simpler to manage.”

Krause said that Sophos will continue to offer on-prem solutions for customers who because of local laws or their own views, don’t want to move to the cloud.

“With laws in place, we can’t move them, but the number of customers who just don’t like cloud is diminishing,” Krause said.

The third subtheme is how the channel itself needs to evolve to respond to the more sophisticated threats as well as drivers like compliance and the growing mobile workforce.

“What partners need to do is look at their business and determine where they want to go as cybersecurity evolves,” Krause said. “That can take the form of more in-depth consulting services, to co-managed services to fully managed services. Each partner needs to look at their business and determine what level they want to get into. That was a big topic in one-on-ones with partners. We talked about where they are, and where it makes sense for them to go.”

Sophos Cloud Optix, which was introduced in early April, was highlighted at the event.  An agentless solution that incorporates the AI-powered technology Sophos acquired with Avid Secure, it provides intelligent cloud visibility, automatic compliance regulation detection and threat response across multiple cloud environments.

“Sophos Cloud Optix was a timely topic because it gives partners the vision to secure hybrid environments,” Krause said.

Krause also said that the emphasis from some startups on SOCs and other offerings for MSSPs aren’t helpful for many channel partners.

“All the SOC talk has been a deflection from truly securing your network first,” she said. “The top priority is securing your network with the best technology, which minimizes the need for a defense within the firewall. That being said, partners do need endpoint detection and response [EDR] and we have a solution for that, with Intercept X Advanced with EDR. But partners don’t have to invest themselves in this level of specialization. They don’t need to spin up a SOC and become an MSSP. There are some who want to do that, and that is great, and we will support that.”

For partners who don’t have the desire or resources to do that, partnering with other partners to get those capabilities is a solution.

“We are seeing a lot of partners work with others who are more focused on those capabilities, so that they don’t have to offer everything themselves,” Krause said.

While no new programmatic initiatives were launched at the event, Krause said that they are in development.

“New back-end support services for partners were discussed,” she said. “The key this year will be rolling out new pre-sales tech services to help partners, which will include an RFP [Request for Proposals] desk, and a Threat Intelligence desk. We are also working on a capability to provide customers with wireless site surveys. That will ensure that partners get the right solution out there, and will provide higher customer satisfaction, so you have a win-win all around. We have been testing that internally, and the  next step is rolling it out.”

Krause said that this all translates into a differentiated value proposition for Sophos.

“There are a lot of vendors out there, but I don’t see another as focused on partners as we are, and focused deeply on the cloud, and focused on the most advanced next-generation cybersecurity. We can provide all that.”

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