Distributors: Regaining Their Sex Appeal?
The VAR Guy concedes: The days of big, fat hardware margins will never return. And the IT channel has pushed far beyond traditional distribution models. But take a closer look and you’ll find big tech companies like Cisco, Dell, HP and Oracle professing their love for key distributors — especially this week, as thousands of VARs flock to distributor events across North America. Here’s the update.
The inspiration for this blog came together last week during a conversation with a PR person who has worked in and around distributors for more than a decade. In order to lift sales during the challenging economic climate it seems like big technology companies are engaging distributors much more closely, the PR veteran noted. And The VAR Guy agrees.
Skeptical? Consider these examples:
1. Tech Data Cisco Ignite: Last week in San Diego, scores of VARs listened to Tech Data and Cisco educate them about small business IT trends, unified communications opportunities, and video over the Internet. The VAR Guy suspects Cisco will host a similar event with another distributor in November… Stay tuned…
2. Ingram Micro VTN: This week in San Francisco, more than 670 VARs and channel partners are attending the Ingram Micro VentureTech Network conference. IT channel chiefs from Cisco, HP and IBM all are attending the conference, Ingram says. And Cisco CEO John Chambers is expected to deliver a video message to the audience, The VAR Guy hears.
HP Channel Chief Stephen DiFranco also is expected to make an appearance — a timely move, considering HP announced its new CEO a few days ago. For DiFranco, it’s a prime opportunity to reassure partners that HP’s channel commitment remains intact.
3. Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions: Arrow on Oct. 6 and 7 will work with Oracle to promote the Oracle OPN Specialized partner program. The event will be hosted in Phoenix, Arizona.
Oracle works with two value-added distributors — Arrow ECS and Avnet Technology Solutions. And those two distributor relationships are particularly critical to Oracle right now, especially as Oracle attempts to transition Sun legacy partners to the Oracle OPN Specialized partner program.
4. Synnex 2010 National Conference: Meanwhile, Synnex this week is hosting its national conference in Greenvale, S.C. It’s similar in size to the Ingram Micro VTN event, attracting roughly 80 vendors and 350 VARs. Everyone from HP to Lenovo is on hand. But pay particularly close attention to the Synnex Hosted Solutions effort, which could unlock some recurring revenue opportunities for attendees.
5. Avnet Technology Solutions – IBM Partner Summit: A few weeks from now, Avnet and IBM will host a partner summit in San Antonio, Texas. For Avnet, the conference represents a careful balancing act. Avnet Technology Solutions has close working relationships with HP, IBM, Oracle-Sun and Cisco Systems. Avnet hopes to cash in — without alienating anyone — as competition between each of those hardware providers intensifies.
Now, consider this: Look at the two-year stock trading histories for Avnet, Ingram Micro and Tech Data. Not stellar, but shares in all three companies have rebounded nicely since the credit crunch of November and December 2008.
The bottom line: We’re witnessing disruptive business combinations (Oracle-Sun) and disruptive technology launches (Cisco Unified Computing System) within the channel. In order for those efforts to succeed, big vendors increasingly partner up with value-added distributors. Heck, even Dell is pushing more product through distributors these days.
It may not be sexy. But it is effective.