Working with Microsoft is giving Check Point and its partners a competitive advantage, says channel chief Frank Rauch.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

April 6, 2021

10 Min Read
Evolution of Man

Check Point Software Technologies partners have a lot to look forward to in the coming months, including an evolved Check Point partner program and tools to help them achieve their objective.

That’s according to Frank Rauch, Check Point’s head of worldwide channel. We normally catch up with him early in the year at Check Point’s annual CPX360 conference. But because of the pandemic, we connected virtually.


Check Point’s Frank Rauch

“I know I’m dying to get back on the road,” he said.

Partners can expect to see better interaction with Check Point’s field teams as the pandemic subsides, Rauch said.

“Everybody has done a lot of virtual teaming together,” he said. “Now they’re ready to really be able to execute as we get out of the first quarter, as we go live and as we start to show up together. And I think it’s going to be a really great year.”

Last summer, Check Point unveiled a cloud distribution marketplace program with Arrow and Ingram Micro. The Check Point Distribution Marketplace Program helps partners reach new customers and sectors with Check Point’s cloud security services.

The program features enablement, marketing support, flexible financing and consumption models for partners. Furthermore, it builds on the Check Point Partner Growth Program launched in January 2020 to further accelerate and grow channel success.

In a Q&A with Channel Futures, Rauch talks about how the Check Point partner program has evolved during the pandemic. He also shares what’s ahead in 2021.

Channel Futures: What’s new for Check Point partners in 2021?

Frank Rauch: The way I look at it, we want to be able to evolve from 2020. And that might be the understatement of the year. But we introduced some fairly significant changes in 2020. What we try to do this year is evolve to be able to optimize around those changes. We are committed to giving partners better predictability, profitability, etc. And we’re able to do that. We were able to refine our deal registration program. We have terrific incentives — 25% for new customers, 15% for emerging technologies. All that stuff was great.

We needed to be able to make it more predictable, and we made some operational changes to do that. Our field is much better aligned to be able to work with partners on emerging tech and new customers. So I think that’s positive. We also told partners we were going to execute on some operational changes. We told them we’re going to do better on business planning. We’re going to do better on quarterly business reviews (QBRs) and we were going to be able to optimize some of the things we had in place, such as Engage, as well as developing a community … called CheckMates.

We were extremely successful on the end-user side and we wanted to bridge that over to the partner side. When we look at the results right now, we have probably about three times the number of users per month than we did when we were in New Orleans (in January 2020) on Engage. The business planning process has been implemented. The QBR tools are there and they’re meaningful. We’ve made the enhancements to Engage. We’ve added the collaborative dashboard. And we’ve added chat with an expert. We give them alerts, not just …

… general alerts on content that they’re looking for, and they’re able to register deals on the apps.

CheckMates has far exceeded what I thought. We started out in April of last year in the middle of a pandemic with 65 brave souls that signed up for the [cybersecurity community] program. We ended up with 2,595 people by the end of the year. Partners love that sense of community.

CF: What’s fueled the success and growth of CheckMates?

FR: Timing is everything. People were starting to work from their home and travel less, and they probably needed a little bit more of a sense of community than they would have in normal times. And people really gravitated to it. They wanted to talk to other people that were in similar situations, how they were handling it, what some of the new security trends were, such as migrating to cloud, your remote workforce, working from home, etc. And I think it was a combination of all of those things. But when I look at our CheckMates team, I think it was also really, good, relevant content that really spoke to some of the areas I just mentioned.

CF: Last summer, Check Point announced the new cloud marketplace program. What’s the status of that?

FR: It’s going well. Originally when we looked at the scope, we looked at it more from the distributors. We engaged with Arrow – with ArrowSphere in Europe and EMEA – and then in North America, primarily with Ingram Micro Cloud. So we’ve expanded the number of products, we’ve expanded the offerings, and we’ve become more flexible regarding the various subscription models. I think that’s going well.

When I talk to Ingram and Arrow, it’s a developing area for them and it’s a developing area for us. The question I always ask them is. “Are we doing any better or are we doing any worse than the other top security vendors on the marketplace?” And the answer is, we’re definitely holding our own or we’re doing a little bit better than that. Office 365 and products like that still tend to dominate the marketplaces. So I think it’s evolving. But when I say we’ve expanded, we’ve also expanded our focus with AWS to be on their marketplace and certainly Microsoft with their Azure marketplace. And those marketplaces tend to be a little bit more quick moving for us.

We’re refining our private offers on that marketplace. Partners are really excited about it and we’re starting to see those two marketplaces really accelerate.

CF: What sorts of challenges have Check Point’s partners been dealing with during the pandemic? How have those evolved over time?

FR: There are opportunities and challenges. In the growth areas, cloud migration, remote workforce, work from home and IoT have been some of the opportunity areas. You look at things like marketing, how do you take all those physical events that were scheduled and turn them into virtual events? And I think we did a really good job in that category and we expanded it even since that. So we’re evolving into something called “campaigns in a box” right now, which are really scalable marketing campaigns. And we’re off to a great start.

We have announced our Quantum Spark, which is our SMB appliance, and we had our 2021 security report. The number of interactions are up strong double-digits year over year. People want to learn. And they’re taking advantage of the time working from home, being somewhat isolated, to learn and get smarter. And I think we have content out there that enables them to do so.

The other part of it is training. We’ve changed our training a little bit. We’ve transitioned a little bit more to the …

… how to engage customers and how to be able to create deals, how to shorten sales cycles, how you utilize the tool. We had over 3,500 training days last year funded by co-op. We introduced the Technical JumpStart series and we had about 32,000 students in that series going through that training.

So again, not claiming victory, but I think we managed through the pandemic and we are still managing through the pandemic pretty well. And I think the key is listening to the partners. I just want to learn; I want to understand what they’re dealing with. And these are some of the things that they are dealing with and some of the things that I think we’ve addressed.

CF: Cyber crime is making bigger headlines than ever, especially SolarWinds. How are Check Point and its partners addressing these increasing threats?

FR: It’s definitely difficult. But the value of Check Point, not only to the partner community but also to the customer community, has always been we have the ability to get in front of the threats, whether it’s using our ThreatCloud or preventing versus detecting, and we’re still really very good at that.

We’ve expanded our offerings. We acquired Odo Security, which gives us a good remote-access play. We’re doing some really good work with other companies; for example, Simplify, when you look at the storage space or Radware when you look at the DDoS space. Both of those partners are actually on our price list. So if a partner wants to really explore those spaces, which are key to be able to deal with some of the threats that are out there right now – not just what we saw from Sunburst or SolarWinds – we have the answers, whether it’s the Check Point portfolio or the extended Check Point portfolio.

The other thing we’re really seeing is basically consolidation. People want to be able to manage their security environment easier. If you think about all the things that have hit them in the last few months, maybe the last year, to be able to have a better security management, more agility in the security landscape, to be able to use something like a Check Point Infinity solution, to be able to have that flexibility, to change your security, to address different security needs, seems to be really resonating with the partners and the customers.

CF: Who are Check Point’s biggest competitors? Has there been any shift in that? And how is the Check Point partner program giving partners a competitive advantage?

FR: Intuitively we play in a lot of different categories. We’re dealing with a lot of the point solutions and we’re also dealing with some of the bigger security players. So I don’t think the competitive landscape has really changed that much. But I think the competitive opportunities have changed. I’m not going to throw around names, but when you look at some of the endpoint solutions that might be fighting with Microsoft rather than working with Microsoft, I’d rather be working with Microsoft in that case. And if you look at some of the people that have decided to sell their security business to other companies, and it’s transformed more into a consumer play than a business play, that’s created tremendous opportunity because that market has become available to us. And together with our partners, we’re going after it.

CF: What can partners expect to see in the coming months in the Check Point partner program as we start to emerge from from the pandemic?

FR: Well, hopefully they’ll see me not on a Zoom screen, but in their offices at some point this year. I think they’re going to see a program that’s evolved. They’re going to see tools to be able to help them achieve their objective. So an enhanced whitespace is just a great tool because all of these partners now want to be able to find new customers. We had about 2,900 whitespace accounts last year and we’re off to a great start again this year. So we’re using not only our data, but third-party data to be able to enable the partners in that way.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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