The new Sophos is goldmine for security channels: Hemal Patel

We have ensured maximum channels growth with minimal partner conflict across Sophos’ portfolio, says Hemal Patel, SVP India Operations, Sophos.

It’s been three years since security giant Sophos acquired India born Cyberoam. The network security company founded by Hemal Patel in 1999 is popular for its UTM brand Cyberoam. ChannelWorld India spoke at length with Hemal Patel, SVP India Operations, Sophos on the new Sophos roadmap and channel blueprint for 2017 and beyond. The combination of security - endpoint and network (Astaro and Cyberoam) – from Sophos works well for security channels, says Hemal.

Post the integration of Cyberoam and Sophos, is the prime objective to sign net new customers or it is more of up sell and cross sell of technologies of both companies?  

India predominantly was focused more on Cyberoam before Sophos-Cyberoam integration. But we do see more than 40 percent net new customers that have been added into the entire portfolio. We do up sell and cross sell Sophos technologies more so with the new release of XG series. This next-gen firewall XG offers an upgraded pack to the customers to leverage more from overall Sophos proposition.

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Have the employees, channels and customers of Cyberoam transitioned into Sophos towards the enhanced market size and a bigger brand?   

The employee integration got completed by 2015 end. Today employees are proud of the innovation and added opportunities from the tech giant Sophos. Everything today is promoted as Sophos brand and the channels are also accepting the transition.

Whenever any company does acquisition of a hardware company, they usually introduce the new product and discontinue the old product. We have been different in that aspect. We have allowed the customer to keep their asset as an upgrade to the new OS. This brings in a comfort level for channels to continue selling the portfolio as in the past. The speed of transition has picked up since we launched XG series in the last quarter of 2016. CIOs and channels in the market have accepted the new branding of Sophos. On the product side, we have to leap forward to brand more as Sophos.

What are the definite opportunities in endpoint security space which is highly fragmented with local and global vendors in India?

India is undeniably very crowded for end point security. However the recently introduced Sophos Intercept X helps us lead the pack. Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Scanner for Ransomware and Malicious Exploits opens the doors and instantly catches the customers’ eyes and ears. There is enough and more opportunity for Sophos channels in the old traditional end point security market with this new technology that adds more robustness to security posture. We are also pushing end point security solutions from Sophos in our well entrenched client base in network security over the years with Cyberoam.

We see a continuous momentum including registering a 37% YoY growth in India market for FY16. 40% out of this growth were net new customers for Sophos India.

Sophos India registered a 37 percent YoY growth in India for FY16 wherein 40% out of this growth were net new customers.

Would UTM-as-a-service or cloud model reduce the shipments of hardware UTM appliances?

There is an explosion in cloud based infra be it AWS, Azure to name a few. In those cases, companies are moving their datacenter infra (mainly switches, storage and servers) from own DC to AWS or Azure. For Sophos that is an entirely brand new green field opportunity. We predominantly sell UTMs for branch offices and individual offices of large corporate DC. Even if 500 employee organization across 5 branch offices moves bunch of DC infra across say AWS they still need UTM in each branch offices and at least one of two next gen firewalls or UTM at their head office.

When they move their DC infra to AWS, they don’t need to get protection but instead look to a UTM or firewall vendor like us. We are one of the leading provider in AWS marketplace of virtual UTM. It’s an exciting growth opportunity for us as it complements the foothold we are already seeing in sale of hardware appliances business. We see cloud picking up steadily in bits and pieces across different verticals but UTM as a hardware appliances is not declining but instead increasing in India.

There is enough opportunity for channels in the traditional endpoint security market with new technology like Sophos Intercept X. We are also pushing endpoint solutions into Cyberoam’s well entrenched client base in India. - Hemal Patel, SVP India Operations, Sophos

What definite winning opportunities do you see for Sophos’ channel partners in India?

Sophos continues its strategy to be a channel dependent company with more focus on pragmatic enterprise (SMB and mid-market). Our endeavor remains to introduce innovative products that are simple and easy to deploy for channels at their customers’ sites. Intercept X technology creates a new value proposition for channels in the ‘prevention and detection’ space along with other solutions in Sophos portfolio.

There is a new firewall OS for channels and customers for free upgradation as per agreement between both sides. Sophos Central (The unified console for managing all Sophos products) manageable from the cloud would help channels to build security services to earn more from the customers. And channels can bank on the credibility of Sophos as a leading security brand.  

How are you resisting to engage with ‘more than needed’ channel partners in India? How are you balancing the strategy of quality versus quantity?

Sophos penetration in India market prior to acquisition of Cyberoam was not very strong. We took the entire channel ecosystem of both the vendors on our joint roadmap. We never allowed any channels to carry competive products as Sophos’ global strategy even on distribution level. Also most of our channels who did Sophos hardly sold Cyberoam and vice-versa in India before the acquisition. Hence our number of channel partners swelled over the past two years but we have tried to maintain a balance of adding new partners selectively and executing deeper engagements with the existing ones.

The channel strategy continues as before because strategy of Sophos and Cyberoam from a channels perspective was almost the same. We have ensured that the channels grow their business and we hardly see any conflict between channels for different products of Sophos.