VARs Warming Up to Symantec Protection Network?

Symantec Protection Network (SPN), a software as a service (SaaS) platform launched in May 2008, is off to a solid start with managed service providers and VARs, according to Symantec Senior Director Chris Schin.

Still, Schin concedes that SaaS and the IT channel "are warming up to each other slowly." His point applies to SaaS across the board -- and certainly isn't limited to Symantec. I spoke with Schin today to get an update on SPN and Symantec's SaaS strategy for partners. Here's a quick recap of the conversation.

From Microsoft to Symantec, dozens of software companies are trying to keep partners engaged with their new SaaS networks. But the results will vary from company to company, since many SaaS business models remain a work in process.

Symantec, like just about every other software company in the world, has been wrestling with the following question: If a small business can buy and activate a SaaS service with just a few clicks of a mouse, what role does the partner play in that process?

Schin and Symantec spent portions of 2007 weighing that question. Schin came up with the following answer: Symantec Protection Network needed to be customizable at the partner level. Specifically, partners would need a co-branded version of SPN in order to sign up customers. And on the back-end, SPN would need to track every partner, and the customers they bring into SPN. Using this approach, partners can receive recurring revenue based on the customers the sign up for SPN.

Symantec launched SPN as a full-blown network in May. The system has attracted "hundreds of active, trained, registered resellers bringing us customers," says Schin. "We’re seeing an upswing in sign-up process."

Is SPN perfect? Certainly not. In June, Jeff Kaplan of Think Strategies provided a great recap Symantec's progress -- and setbacks -- with SPN to date.

Coming Soon: Security as a Service

At launch, SPN supported online storage services. Going forward, the company is working to build closer links between SPN and Symantec Hosted Mail Security (a solution that hosts Brightmail in a SaaS delivery model). Also, Symantec will begin to integrate security services into SPN, according to Schin.

When? Schin is a bit coy, but says partners should expect Symantec to discuss beta tests for new SPN services within the next few months.

So far, SPN is a US-only SaaS network because privacy and data management laws vary from country to country. Schin did not disclose if or when Symantec will begin testing SPN outside of the United States.
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