Channel Marker


November 20, 2007  11:33 PM

Virtualization wave ruffles Microsoft foundation

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft proponents would definitely not agree, but the virtualization genie will make operating systems a lot less relevant.

Microsoft is pricing its  upcoming Hyper-V (aka Viridian) virtualization technology aggressively. I know that’s a shock. But the $28 they’ll charge for Hyper-V server is basically the price-cutting move the company has perfected over the years-with Office (bundling four or five apps for the price of two); undercutting Netscape with free Internet Explorer. Ya-de-ya-de-ya.

Microsoft’s purchase of Connectix (and later Softricity) gave it some virtualizaion know-how in what has become a classic ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ move.

One player in the application appliance market (hardly a dispassionate observer) summed up Microsoft’s move thus: “They want to make their hypervisor relevant and are making it practically free.  They’re thinking: ‘Good lord, how do we deal with VMware?’ It’s frightening the heck out of them. If you boot a hypervisor you’re not putting the operating system as the base layer,” he notes.

And that fact alone has big-time ramifications. The operating system–Windows–is the foundation of Microsoft’s stack.  “The hard thing for them to deal with is how to adjust to a business model where the ISV or the developer-not necessarily Microsoft– is the face to the customer. They do the life-cycle and licensing stuff.”

For partners, virtualization has been driving a ton of business as customers try to cut hardware and storage costs. The hope is that some of those savings may be funneled into system integration or custom app work. So solution providers should get their VM expertise in order.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area writer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  

November 19, 2007  10:35 AM

Ex-Loti Sturtevant heads up new Microsoft concept lab

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Reed Sturtevant, one of the Lotus stars behind Freelance Graphics, is now heading up Microsoft’s concept development effort just blocks away from the old “LDB” headquarters building. See story here.

This is ironic for long-timers who remember how much better Freelance was than PowerPoint. Not that it mattered.

Anyway, Reed came aboard a few weeks ago and will be working on incubation projects outside Microsoft’s business units. He was most recently CEO of Eons, a social network for the over-fifty set. Before that he was at IdeaLab and Radnet.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area writer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  


November 18, 2007  9:41 PM

Customer disorganization can be a big VAR margin killer

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

How closely do you manage your account size mix? There are certainly advantages to working with smaller companies—such as the chance to be a strategic IT advisor—but are you putting an inordinate amount of resources into these accounts?

A conversation I had late last week with Dave Casey, president of Westron Communications, got my mind racing on this topic. With the end of the year approaching, we were chatting about some things he’s learned about the business during 2007.

By his account, Westron has had a good year, basically doubling its sales to around $5 million. Its traditional client base is comprised of small businesses. But through Westron’s partnership with the 1NService solution provider alliance organization, Casey has been encouraged to take on bigger infrastructure projects.

And that, he says, has made all the difference this year. “We always thought we could get more margin from small businesses because we are more valuable to them,” he observes. “But the truth is that with these larger projects we can still add a lot of value, and we’ve been able to articulate that. We’re targeting larger projects, and we’re winning them.”

One example is a $100,000 deal that Westron was able to take on with the help of some of its 1NService partners. A focus on converged communications and IP telephony certainly hasn’t hurt Westron’s message, given the market interest in these solutions.

Westron has also learned some things about operational discipline by working with these larger companies, which it will use to rethink how it works with some of its smaller clients. For one thing, smaller accounts tend to be less organized about their IT strategy, Casey says, which means more of the burden lies on Westron’s own services personnel. On the flip side, Casey has found that his staff’s empathy with smaller businesses means that they sometimes overlook billing them for every service. I think you’ll agree that’s not exactly a sound business practice.

“All in all, we’re trying to target people who are better organized, no matter what the size of the company,” Casey says. “This should provide us with a higher profit margin.”

This is one of the leaps in logic that comes only with hard-won experience. For me personally, there’s a lot of validity to what Casey advocates. That’s because the first step to meeting a customer’s expectations is understanding those expectations, if not setting them in the first place.

Got a tip you’d like to share with other VARs and systems integrators? E-mail me at hccollins@mac.com.

Heather Clancy is a business journalist with 20 years experience covering the high-tech industry, especially the mechanics of the high-tech channel.


November 15, 2007  9:40 PM

Singing the Vista blues

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

 The Vista debate continues. John Dvorak and others have weighed in on the price, confusing SKU array and other potential hurdles to adoption.Most damning, in my view, have been the anecdotal comments among long-time Microsoft partners. I always ask these partners what they see in terms of Vista adoption at customer sites.

The near-uniform reaction to this question is not even verbal. It is laughter. VARs laugh when asked about Vista implementations: They are just not seeing them.

That’s not too surprising given that 1: Vista has been broadly available for less than a year and 2: people are pretty happy with Windows XP. But, people should pay attention anyway. Given the sheer noise going into this release years in advance (remember the laughable claims about “Vista capable” older PCs?) there should be more action by now.

Forrester Research analyst Benjamin Gray says enterprise accounts are now getting serious about migration to Vista and he expects broad rollouts to start in the middle of next year. By that time Service Pack 1 should be out there, giving companies some comfort.

The thing that struck me most talking to Gray was his contention that some security and UI improvements aside, the most compelling reason to move to Vista is to stay current with Microsoft support.

This should raise eyebrows.  If solution provider customers are upgrading just to “stay legal” means, to me, that they do not see feature- and function benefits in the operating system. 

That should worry Microsoft.

 Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  


November 14, 2007  3:54 PM

Chizen exits Adobe

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Here’s  another news nugget that bears watching.

Bruce Chizen is leaving his spot as Adobe next month after 13 years with the company. Shantanu Narayen, who is now president and chief operating officer, will take his slot.

Chizen rode herd on Adobe’s blockbuster buyout of Macromedia. That buy gave Adobe, already ubiquitous with its Acrobat reader and the PDF format,  even more desktop presence and mindshare with Macromedia’s Flash franchise.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area journalist, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  


November 12, 2007  5:46 PM

Cognos: Sold to IBM for $5B!

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

 IBM Software has long made a big racket about how it’s an infrastructure player and would never ever, ever (again) compete with applications partners.

But now it’s buying Cognos for five billion big ones. That’s five billion. For Cognos! So those arguments are sounding pretty flimsy. Of course, IBM would (and will) argue that business intelligence and analytics are not applications per se. Yes, and you can probably fit a million angels on the head of a pin.

BusinessWeek’s headline summed it up:  IBM, Cognos, and the end of Best-of-Breed. Once again, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who has long said that best-of-breed was a goner, is proved right. Of course, as Bill Gates once said, Larry spent billions of shareholders’ dough proving that contention. But enough digressing.

A reporter pal could have one upped BusinessWeek with her suggested (but unused)  Cognos headline:  “Well, it needed killin’.”

 Of course IBM’s pledge of application agnosticism has long stuck in the craw of such “applications partners” as Information Builders and others. Many never bought the premise especially as the infrastructure of all the major players has crept up, up, up the application stack.
After  SAP bought Business Objects and Oracle bought up the rest of the known universe including Siebel and its analytics powers (Siebel had already bought nQuire) IBM must have figured it had to move. Don’t forget, Microsoft had its own buying binge snapping up Dundas technology along with Proclarity, ActiveViews, DeepMetrics, AssetMetrix (or parts of them) to beef up its BI portfolio.

So, as Cognos was the last BI player standing, it was only a matter of time. It has also been very closely aligned with IBM for years, especially once Microsoft started coming up the stack with its own reporting and analytics tools. In fact, IBM used to tout Cognos as a example of how it, unlike Microsoft and Oracle, does not compete with applications partners.

As SAP, Oracle, Microsoft continued their feeding frenzy, maybe it became an if-you-can’t-beat’em-join-em thing for IBM.

For  BI solution partners who’ve been in demand for their skills, will have to get used to playing with bigger and bigger partners.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  


November 12, 2007  2:29 PM

Got an IT job opening? Maybe you should take a chance on a vet

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

When I talk to solution providers about their biggest day-to-day operational challenges, hiring skilled technical personnel invariably comes up as urgent priority one or two. So it seemed appropriate to put on my patriotic cap for a moment on Veteran’s Day to mention a new program started by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) to prepare returning war veterans for jobs in the IT field.

The effort, called Creating Futures, links would-be employers with military personnel who are leaving active service and transitioning back into civilian life. It is, in its purest form, a training program intended to help these individuals develop the skills they need to potentially snag one of these jobs. The program provides a skills assessment, scholarship opportunities, technical training sessions, certification testing, internships and job search assistance.

CompTIA says it has been running a pilot program in Jacksonville, Fla., since March that has aided 47 veterans to date. The organization’s goal is to offer training for up to 200 people in this particular geographic area, with an eye to duplicating the program in other large cities that are home to large numbers of transitioning military personnel who are leaving active service and reentering the civilian job pool. CompTIA is also offering online training to active personnel stationed in Germany, and it is working with organizations, including Wounded Warriors, to identify IT job candidates.

Even if you’re not a CompTIA member, it seems reasonable for solution providers to look toward this candidate pool to address their hiring needs. Got any success stories or tips for how you’re successfully developing personnel? If you’re a solution provider with something to talk about, e-mail Tech Target contributing blogger Heather Clancy at hccollins@mac.com.


November 6, 2007  10:59 PM

Dell seeks partner progress in EqualLogic buy

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Talk about strange bedfellows.

Dell’s  decision to buy EqualLogic, a company led by CEO Don Bulens, made some heads spin.

Bulens, before his stints at Radnet and Trellix, was the chief partner advocate for Lotus Notes. He was, in short, very much in tune with the needs of Notes partners (I was going to use the word ‘ecosystem’ but just couldn’t spit it out.)

He was a popular leader who helped engineer the shift of Notes from a direct-only sale to a partner sale. After he left there was considerable backsliding, but no matter.

The idea that Bulens, the ultimate partner guy, should ally himself with Dell which is seen as anything but, is mind boggling.

Also, Dell now has to balance its existing storage alliance with EMC with this new entry.  

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Dell et al. is trying to become more channel savvy and perhaps even partner friendly. Suffice it to say, I’ve heard that before.

Having Bulens and Equallogic aboard may help in that regard. Maybe.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.  


November 5, 2007  9:53 AM

Consumer apps/services continue assault on business IT

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

The blurring of corporate/consumer computing lines continues.

Any solution provider or integrator working with corporate clients (SMBs to enterprises) knows how there is simply no way to prevent consumer-oriented services (Napster, AOL or Yahoo instant messaging, YouTube, you name it) from penetrating the firewalls. Some of these beasts—Second Life leaps to mind—are even claiming that they have relevance inside the firewall.

Last week, Google took another step, backing what it calls a set of “open” APIs for social networking application development. No skin off Google’s teeth there: It’s really not a huge player in this Facebook/MySpace world. Yet. Why not declare yourself a player while claiming the moral high ground in a battle field where you’re barely a blip? Sounds positively Microsoftian.

Leading into that news, F acebook declared itself to be far more than a voyeuristic social networking site, but a for-real application development environment.

Anyway, solution providers know this poses a challenge—and an opportunity for them to help customers sort through these worlds and keep the customer as secure as possible.

An opportunity because these trends shift faster than Paris Hilton changes poses and a challenge because it may be hard to persuade clients to pay for expertise in this respect.

Barbara Darrow, a Boston area freelancer, can be reached at badarrow@comcast.net.


November 2, 2007  5:13 PM

Who are the real tech buyers/decision makers?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Want to sell some a unified communications solution, skip the tech guys and start with the sales department.

Yes, yes, the idea that business executives will wield a larger decision over technology purchases has been kicking around the channel for several years now. But Mike Thompson, president and CEO of VAR Groupware Technology in Campbell, Calif., says the most relevant sales conversations are starting to happen outside of the IT organization. This is especially true for complex solutions such as unified communications, he says, because the easiest way to justify the investment cost is to talk to those who own or manage operational and facilities costs that fall outside the IT organization.

Of course, this means a different sort of marketing message, Thompson says. He’s investing in a multi-tiered one for unified communications that leans less on the tech specs of the Cisco equipment he sells and more on the tangible business benefits. One of the biggest head turners, he says, is the simple efficiency argument—especially when it comes to linking together organizations with several remote locations that want to look more professional.

Business journalist and channel communications consultant Heather Clancy welcomes your comments, ideas and gripes. E-mail her at hccollins@mac.com.


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