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Motorola Courts VARs to Sell All-Wireless Workplace

July 8, 2008

4 Min Read
Motorola Courts VARs to Sell All-Wireless Workplace

By Tara Seals

While Motorola Inc. (MOT) has been ramping up its channel programs for some time, there’s a new opportunity on the horizon: the all-wireless enterprise. To go after it, the vendor is looking to woo a new class of network-centric channel partners that can sell indoor and outdoor equipment to convert enterprises away from the wiring closet com-pletely.

“We’ve been moving forward with new strategy in wireless and it’s beginning to reso-nate,” explained Kevin Goulet, senior director of marketing for WLAN solutions at Motorola. “The all-wireless enterprise is a different animal from what we have installed.”

To wit: Today in the enterprise world, most companies with WLANs are running two networks — a wired infrastructure, and then a parallel wireless overlay network. “The APs 99.9 percent of the time are plugged into Ethernet jacks, and that cable connects the traffic through the wired network back to data center,” explained Goulet. “Then think about the fact that 802.11n is a big inflection point, where customers are faced with a faster product and higher bandwidth for voice and video. But it won’t work without up-grading the wired infrastructure to support those additional wireless speeds. Essentially, companies have to double dip when it comes to upgrading.”

Motorola, which is shipping 802.11n products now, has an approach to eliminate the wired portion of the equation. Instead, it is using outdoor mesh gear to create a private network to connect an enterprise’s APs all the way back to the data center. “We’ll recommend they capture their investment in wireless,” said Goulet. “It pays off: We’re seeing cost savings one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of doing it the other way.”

And that message is getting noticed. For instance, in one case Motorola put in a point-to-point wireless connection between two buildings across a metro area. “They found that the leased line costs will be recouped in just six to 10 months because of the lower monthly recurring charge,” said Goulet. “We’re talking huge amounts of cost savings, so the sale is a no-brainer. The customer asked us, ‘Where have you guys been hiding this product? Under a rock?’ And that’s when we knew we had to turn to the channel.”

Accordingly, Moto is looking for voices and feet to take the message to the market. While the vendor has been in the WLAN game since acquiring Symbol Technologies 18 months ago, it’s been a challenge to raise awareness of that fact among CIOs. “We are concertedly looking to grow this business through verticals and on a horizontal basis,” explained Goulet. “So we’re building on our 5-Star Partner Select program to go after a slightly different class of resellers that are more networking- and wireless-centric than we’ve had before. We want them to offer the most comprehensive indoor and outdoor networked solutions out of our portfolio that they can.”

To support the recruitment effort, the vendor has rolled out a new, five-day certified net-working training course, and is kick-starting a lead-generation program to get the ball rolling. It also, depending on the size of the reseller, will assign a dedicated channel rep-resentative to the VAR. As for compensation, it’s up to the VARs to mark up what Mo-torola will offer to them at a discount.

What Motorola is not looking to do is blanket the country with new program members. “We’re hearing a lot that VARs serving this market have a difficult time holding margin in this business,” said Goulet. “Some of our competitors are heavily distributed, so if there’s a big or medium deal, it might be bid on by five or six VARs all with the same solution — so it becomes a price game. We’re going to be selective, sifting in the front end, and going after VARs strategically and thoroughly.”

The VARs that do join the program will find opportunities for the all-wireless message in places like the health care vertical, which heavily relies on mobile computers and endpoints, and which often has a campus environment or satellite clinics, along with dedicated data centers. The education market has similar topological needs. Then there’s the legacy Symbol customers, especially in retail, where that company was “very dominant,” said Goulet. Beyond verticals, any enterprise interested in 802.11n can be a customer target.

“That’s the beauty,” said Goulet. “VARs can really capitalize on a wide basis. It’s an ex-citing message.”

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