How a new-look BlackBerry Spark is partnering in Asia Pacific

How a new-look BlackBerry Spark is partnering in Asia Pacific

Availability of BlackBerry Spark Suites aims to drive vendor consolidation efforts

Joe McPhilips (BlackBerry Spark)

Joe McPhilips (BlackBerry Spark)

Credit: Supplied

BlackBerry Spark is hammering home a message of consolidation at channel, customer and product levels in 2020, as the new-look vendor expands Asia Pacific reach.

In addition to unifying the partner programs of BlackBerry and Cylance - acquired for $1.4 billion in November 2018 - the security specialist is also rolling out new cyber and endpoint management options for customers and providers in the form of BlackBerry Spark Suites, advocating an end-to-end approach in the process.

The move is designed to help customers streamline vendor products amid a noisy security landscape, delivered via a focused and combined channel ecosystem across the region.

“Customers more than ever are looking to consolidate vendors, particularly in the security market,” observed Joe McPhilips, director of Channel Sales across Asia Pacific at BlackBerry Spark. “They are instead looking to work with vendors that house a broad portfolio which addresses total cost of ownership requirements.”

In addition to cost reduction, McPhilips - who joined the business via Cylance in October 2018 - said customers are also seeking to ramp up security protection levels across all markets and verticals. Such an approach opens up new opportunities for the channel via Suites, a platform housing the technical capabilities of both BlackBerry and Cylance offerings.

“This is even more relevant for partners,” McPhilips added. “Partners today are governed by multiple channel programs, vendor certifications and commitments. Working with less vendors while covering a wide-range of security functionality makes more sense.”

Specifically, McPhilips said partners running security operations centres (SOCs) via managed security service provider (MSSP) programs are best placed to capitalise due to the added complications of housing multiple vendor offerings.

“Lots of vendors brings lots of concerns around integration, correlation and the relevance of security information being provided,” he said. “It’s such a headache for partners to deliver on these technologies while driving customer value, reducing cost and increasing security protection. This is extremely difficult to achieve across multiple vendors.”

Speaking exclusively to Channel Asia, McPhilips said plans are also in place to roll out a unified partner program on 1 September, bringing together the key elements of BlackBerry and Cylance supply chain strategies.

“We have two different programs today with different discount structures and go-to-market approaches but we’re bringing those together,” he explained. “Cylance operates as a traditional tier-2 channel whereas BlackBerry was structured differently and offered more flexibility.

“Come 1 September, we will have one go-to-market strategy and one set of distribution partners across the board. We will be focused on providing a key set of benefits which partners can attach onto.”

Armed with past experience running Blue Coat and Symantec channel networks in Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ), McPhilips is no stranger to bringing together two disparate partner ecosystems. Central to such efforts will be an increased pivot towards channel education and partner-led services.

“It’s been an interesting exercise because BlackBerry have a very different set of partners, some that are very professional services orientated and very deep into the technology,” he outlined. “They are not necessarily as wide but they are very capable and most partners have already been brought over.

“Our channel team has been busy understanding the partner landscape and assessing who the key partners are, what their go-to-market strategy looks like - whether heavily services or product - and how we fit into their plans. In some cases, not everything will be applicable for partners. We don’t need to educate partners on everything because this isn’t an ‘eat all or nothing’ approach.”


The enhanced channel focus comes amid widespread availability of Suites, a newly launched endpoint security and management platform targeting enterprise, commercial and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and automation capabilities, the offering aims to provide endpoint management and user authentication enhancements, backed by application and data encryption.

“2020 is a pivotal year for organisations trying to maintain business continuity, while undergoing digital transformation and workplace upheaval,” said John Chen, executive chairman and CEO of BlackBerry.

“With the increased volume and variety of enterprise IoT [Internet of Things] endpoints and as the scale of cyber threats continues to grow, BlackBerry Spark Suites provide a consolidated, simplified endpoint security and management offering to reduce cost and complexity in a chaotic environment.”

The product is available immediately and can be accessed from distributors across Asia Pacific, spanning Arrow ANZ and Exclusive Networks in A/NZ; Pago Networks in Korea; iValue in India and Ingram Micro across Asia.

This is in addition to Westcon in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Taiwan, alongside Tech Titan (Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand); Ace Pacific (Singapore); ZeroOne (Taiwan); DataOne (Thailand) and Halo Data (Indonesia).

“As organisations around the world fight against the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic and mandated work-from-home directives, we have witnessed a tremendous increase of cyber attacks,” said Krishna Rajagopal, CEO of Malaysia-based AKATI Sekurity.

“The launch of Suites is positive news for our business as we continue to support our customers to maintain secure remote working and cyber risk mitigation - while also creating new growth opportunities as our clients rapidly move to AI-driven, prevention-first cyber security solutions such as BlackBerry Spark.”

Meanwhile in Australia, and in light of current Covid-19 conditions, Melbourne-based Leong Wang - director of CyberRisk - cautioned that the "last thing" customers require is financial and reputational damage inflicted by a ransomware attack or data breach.

“The BlackBerry Spark platform will enable customers to consolidate and improve their cyber threat prevention and remediation with one agent across desktop, mobile, server and IoT devices with a unified endpoint security [UES] layer,” he added.

Echoing Wang’s observations, Ian Simpson, senior account manager of Sydney-based IT Easy, cited “complexity and confusion” over using disparate technology solutions as some of the leading obstacles in delivering an effective cyber security strategy at customer-level.

“As a result, we are seeing a shift towards consolidating cyber investment as digital transformation strategies mature,” he outlined. “We are diversifying our cyber security service offering with BlackBerry’s trusted, intelligent, AI-driven solutions.”

Specific to New Zealand, Brad Pearpoint - managing director of Palmerston North-based Advantage - said the launch of Suites adds “another string to the bow” of the provider, building upon cyber security services recently launched with the vendor.

“As New Zealand organisations move forward with digital transformation plans at a rapid pace, we are also seeing a trend towards adopting more ‘intelligent’ AI-driven approaches to cybersecurity and end-point management that moves way beyond traditional anti-virus software,” Pearpoint summarised.

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