The discovery and disclosure of the Spectre and Meltdown processor design flaws rocked the IT world this past month and provided a critical test for vendors to see just how well they communicate with their resellers and channel partners.
Intel, in particular, had a tough go here, but the ordeal provides a great example of how to keep the lines of communication open with the channel and how valuable the channel can be for vendors during a time of crisis.
When Intel and several companies first heard of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, their first public reactions, at the beginning of January, were not terribly comforting to end users and the channel. Intel downplayed initial reports and claiming its chips were working as designed, it did not seem to be taking the security vulnerabilities seriously enough. The market reacted, and Intel soon lost several billion dollars in market capitalization in just a few days.
All the while, though, Intel keep communicating. It quickly clarified its stance in clearer public statements and doubled-down on partner education, noting that channel partners were going to be key to educating end users. The company's stock soon bounced back, too.
But Intel wasn't in the clear yet. It issued, then quickly retracted, security patches that caused some computer systems to behave erratically. Again, though, Intel kept a steady drumbeat of communication going with partners. It didn’t shut them out, even when things weren't going as planned.
Intel finally told the market it would do the right thing: fix what were clearly hardware design problems with better hardware designs. "We are working to incorporate silicon-based changes to future products that will directly address the Spectre and Meltdown threats in hardware," said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, in a conference call with analysts on January 25. "Those products will begin appearing later this year."
All the while, thanks largely to Intel's constant communication, channel partners were on the front lines, helping end customers react with the same calm, common-sense steps that are recommended for all security issues.
It's a great story if it ends there, but the Spectre and Meltdown issues are not going away. The vulnerabilities have been present in devices for several years, and vendors will need to continue to communicate with and work closely with channel partners to make sure they are clear about their plans to mitigate those threats for each service and hardware product they sell. Like Intel, vendors need to establish a practice of good, clear communication with channel partners now, so they'll be ready when the sledding gets a little tough.
At CRN, we will be tracking the story of Spectre and Meltdown – and the channel's journey through the ups and downs of this latest security threat – here at this URL: https://www.crn.com/spectre-meltdown