It tooks nine months of gestation, but McAfee Inc.’s new three-level partner program has come to Canada.

Announced early last year, the security company said this week that its 500 resellers here can start to qualify and apply for the SecurityAlliance channel program. It began six months ago

in the U.S. but some volume requirements had to be altered for the Canadian market.

“It’s designed to reward the partners based on their investment with us,” said Jack Sebbag, McAfee’s Canadian vice-president and general manager.

The new program creates three categories of partners: Elite, Premier and Associate.While it’s not written in stone, Elite partners are expected to be selling more than $1 million a year in McAfee products, while Premier partners should be selling $250,000.

Of the Canadian partners, no more than 15 are expected to qualify as top-tier VARs. To reach that level they have to have an approved business plan, have at least three technicians and three sales staff certified on the company’s Intershield, Intracept and Foundstone products, receive high marks on an annual customer satisfaction survey.

Benefits include having a named McAfee executive to work with the partner, a designated account manager and access to a pre-sales systems engineer who can be brought along on sales calls.

They also get a greater discount on IntruShield and Entercept intrusion protection and Foundstone vulnerability management software products than premier partners, and better access to market development funds than premier partners.

“Getting rewarded with a better discount is something partners have been looking for for a long time,” said Sebagg.

However, there will be no change in the flat discount all partners get on McAfee’s traditional anti-virus releated products, a sign of how much the company wants partners to switch to selling network security solutions.

Premier partners must have at least two certified technicians and sales staff but have a reduced set of benefits including, for example, only phone access to a systems engineer for sales advice.

However, both elite and premier partners get access to McAfee-generated sales leads.Sebbag expects that it will take only two or three months for the elite partners to be registered, while all the premier partners will take up to nine months to qualify.

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