Channel Marker

January 21, 2008  1:56 PM

A tale of two stacks

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Microsoft — or at least part of Microsoft — continues its quest to persuade open-source developers that Windows should be on their short-list of platforms. You know, right up there with Linux.

Sam Ramji, the Microsoft guy whose job it is to mend fences and foster collaboration with open-source ISVs and other partners points to progress.  

Exhibit A: Ramji — his formal title is director of platform technology strategy — will keynote at this spring’s EclipseCon conference. Not traditionally a big venue for Microsoft execs.

Exhibit B: Nearly a third (30 percent) of SugarCRM’s business is now on Windows, he says. SugarCRM is the open-source CRM pioneer. Two years ago Microsoft and SugarCRM inked a technical collaboration pact.

Exhibit C: Of the 140,000-some-odd applications on the Sourceforge repository some 77,000 now run on Windows, Ramji says. Admittedly, a large number of that 140,000 are probably dead apps, but why quibble?

Ramji also points to the fact that IIS now supports PHP development. And the final release of a SQL Server driver that will let PHP talk to SQL Server 2005 and 2008 should be available for download alter this year.

Microsoft has made some good moves to soothe open sourcers’ qualms about the company and its occasional legal saber rattling. It hired Tom Hanrahan, former director of engineering at the Linux Foundation to direct Microsoft’s Linux Interoperability Labs.

Still there are gaping holes. Microsoft is pushing to get every app possible to run on Windows becuase that’s good for Microsoft. What it’s not saying is when Office will run on Linux. Ideas? Anyone? Is it really so outrageous to even ask the question?

Ramji and team may have their hearts in the right place about peaceful and fruitful coexistence of open source and Microsoft stacks. But the question is Microsoft overall and whether  its defense of intellectual property rights (aka patents)  is antithetical to open source.

In the real world people run both open-source and Microsoft stacks — and partners supporting them must know how to ensure the dual-stack works. So they have to watch what, Ramji’s team — as well as Microsoft writ large — are doing.

For more on open source and channel opportunities see  this story.

What’s your take? Send your thoughts to

January 18, 2008  2:09 PM

Beware ‘TMI’

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Too much information!

Warning customers against posting personal data to the Web is one of the most important services VARs can provide.

Many in the business community are enamored of social networking sites and appear to feel that more is more when it comes to “sharing” their lives on LinkedIn, Facebook, Myspace, insert-your-favorite-social-site here.

The problem with that is  cyber miscreants lurk just waiting to pounce on these nuggets. Something as innocuous-seeming as college affiliation, job history, names of family and friends can be used by social engineers to craft e-mail messages that will suck you in. That simple click will then unleash threats on your very own hard drive. Executables embedded in Word or Excel or PDF attachments will search your data to harvest -and secretly send out– passwords, account numbers, and other riches.

This online information trove is like a “playground for hackers,” says Yacov Wrocherinsky, CEO of Infinity Info Systems, a New York Sage Software and Microsoft partner specializing in business applications.

And for high-net-worth (ie. rich) executives who are  likely targets, it’s important that their wives, kids, friends also be careful about what personal details they divulge.

The beauty of LinkedIn is members can see who their associates know. “It’s great for making connections or for finding people if you’ve lost their business cards,” Wrocherinsky says. But that doesn’t mean you should bare any more than is absolutely necessary.

And on the less-business oriented of the social networking sites, say Facebook, people tend to put in way too much information-birthdays, anniversaries, travel plans, kids names, etc. All of that is gold for social engineers with evil intent.

George Brown, CEO of  Database Solutions, a Cherry Hill, N.J. solution provider tells his customers to keep their data zipped and not to post anything they are not required to do by law . As it is now with SEC filings for public companies, a lot of information about execs is already out there. No need to supplement that for the bad guys, Brown says.

Barbara Darrow can be reached at  

January 17, 2008  10:22 PM

Watch these channel women: They have an agenda

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

I am always highly conflicted when I do what I am about to do: Write about women in the channel in some sort of special way.

For the longest time, I debated whether or not I should make any big deal out of someone’s gender as a business attribute. But as I’ve reached some magic milestone birthdays, I’ve cared less what people really think. What’s more, there very definitely is a difference in the way that women manage. So, this blog is a tout for all you Channel Gals — whether you’re vendor executives or solution provider owners/principals.

One of the solution provider executives I most admire, Angela Trillhaase, senior vice president of business development for the big Illinois-based VAR Meridian Group, tarted agitating about the Women in Channels group last summer. She didn’t just pay her idea lip service. She actually went out, got about 110 women interested and is now planning the organization’s first board meeting for Jan. 28-29.

Trillhaase says Women in Channels is working on creating a set of value propositions for its memberships, ones that enrich their careers and personal lives. Two big things are encouraging diversity throughout the channel and, of course, helping to speed the advancement of women who are pursuing channel careers. It’s likely that the group will hold a conference sometime this year, but that’s not on the calendar yet. Stay tuned for more information about this and their mission in a couple of weeks.

Aside from Trillhaase, there are four other Women in Channels board members. They are Penny Arvantes, marketing manager for SoftwareOne; Dee Dee Lear, a director of sales with Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions; Gina Morkel, senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications for MSI System Integrators; and Cathy Cook Pursell, channel services manager with IBM.

January 15, 2008  1:39 PM

Microsoft deal, exec exits: Coincidence or conspiracy?

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Sometimes it takes a few days for the obvious to occur. Up here in the snowy northeast we call that “dawn breaking on Marblehead.”

Example: Ran into an old bud (to be known as Buddy) today who, as it happens, works for Fast Search & Transfer. That’s the little enterprise search  outfit Microsoft is buying for  a cool $1.2 BILLION to combat Google’s inside-the-firewall search incursion.

Buddy pointed out that within days  of that announcement– presided over by Microsoft Business Division president Jeff Raikes — Raikes himself announced  retirement plans.

And,  Microsoft’s top M&A guy, Bruce Jaffe, announced his  personal exit strategy as well. Jaffe will be gone next month, Raikes is hanging around till September.

But still.

Those bombshells dropped a day after the Fast deal became public.

Kinda makes you wonder, don’t it?

January 11, 2008  9:50 AM

Business planning: Should you or shouldn’t you? Yes, you should

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

First, a disclosure. I’ve been thinking about business planning lately for two big reasons: First, because it’s the sort of thing I’ve been doing for myself to get ready for 2008 and, second, because my new employer, SWOT Management Group, advocates business planning between vendor and channel partner as a means of improving field execution on both sides.

I’m a pretty anal person, generally, which means I get anxious when I don’t have my list of to-do items all figured out every morning. But, here’s the thing. I almost always diverge from that list, handling the really important real-time priorities that crop up during my day.

Does that my planning exercise is a waste of time?

Absolutely not.

In my instance, planning helps me visualize my ultimate goal (actually, goals). How I get there will be guided by my ability to switch directions as dictated by real-life conditions around me not by sticking to some check-off list (in this case dictated by myself).

I was debating this issue with Keith Norbie, director of the storage operations at reseller Nexus Information Systems, earlier this week. His frustration with business planning is that some of his vendors are so focused on propping up some individual product forecast that’s been mandated by their CFO that they don’t stop to understand what’s good for HIS business. It gets worse when he represents several different product lines for the same vendor.

Indeed, that’s what makes business planning tough. If both sides don’t stop to understand each other’s goals, it IS a waste of time.

So, if business planning is something one or more of your vendors requires, here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of it without ceding your own independent business goals:

  1. Listen, and disclose. I think there’s a tendency on the part of many solution providers to withhold information from their vendor partners. I “get” why you do this. But the act of serious business planning will require you to share as much about your business objectives as legally possible.
  2. Insist on the same access to pipeline information and sales process training as your field sales representatives on the vendor side. Pretty self-explanatory, but sharing of knowledge goes both ways. If your vendor isn’t telling you something, then it’s time to think seriously about why and assess whether your commitment is worth it.
  3. Set measurable, realistic goals. Don’t let yourself get bullied into a goal you think you can’t reach. Make sure you stay on track by insisting on regular updates from both sides.
  4. Make someone accountable. Again, this goes for both sides. If someone on the vendor’s team isn’t invested in the success of the plan, you’ve gotta wonder about whether you should commit.
  5. Be willing to take a detour or two. Like I mentioned before, the best thing about having a goal is being able to focus on a certain outcome. Your preconception of how to get there may different from reality, so you need to be willing to course-correct.

Like Keith Norbie reminded me during our debate: A great plan with flawed execution makes for a flawed outcome. It’s the execution on your business plan objectives that really counts.
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist and a strategic channel communications consultant for SWOT Management Group. You can reach her at

December 31, 2007  12:17 PM

From sleepers to jeepers! 5 trends that will sneak up on the high-tech channel in 2008

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

My old, er long-time, colleague Barbara Darrow beat me to the punch about a week ago by posing 10 questions that are likely to define the businesses of every VAR, reseller, systems integrator, IT solution provider—whatever you choose to call yourself and your company—in 2008.

She was wise in taking this approach. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my more than 18 years covering this complicated business organism called the channel, it’s that most predictions any of us outsiders make will be wrong. But that won’t stop me from putting my neck out anyway. So, here goes nothing. Except I’m not going for the more obvious things I believe will be big—such as wide area wireless access and unified communications solutions. Rather, here are five trends I believe will creep up on your business in 2008. Are you planning to be surprised?

Sleeper Trend #1: Your clients will turn green-er.
Groan. I can hear you now, calling me a despicable treehugger, like my father sometimes does, and laughing at me for bringing this up. But here’s the thing: Contrary to popular belief, being green can actually save your customers money. Proof point #1: Electricity costs. There isn’t a single business in existence that isn’t worried about escalating facilities costs. The fact is, the right technology and the right technology management can help companies be more energy-efficient. So, even if you’re cynical about whether or not global warming is a myth, embrace the ethos of energy-efficiency. It’ll impact all sorts of things you represent—from virtualization technology to storage to unified communications.

Sleeper Trend #2: Software as a service will quietly gain more converts, especially among small businesses.
Sometimes I think solution providers don’t channel their own experiences as small-business owners into ideas that could serve their own clients. I talk to enough entrepreneurs to know that one thing in particular colors how they look at technology: their need to work from anywhere at any time. What does that mean? For one thing, data synchronization is ultracritical for small-business owners. That is, they want to get to the latest revisions of files from home, from hotels and from their office. They don’t so much care whether their spreadsheet lives on their computer or off on a server somewhere just so long as the information they need is always available. I won’t even pretend to have market statistics on this, but I’d be willing to bet that pretty much any business that is willing to host its e-mail service elsewhere will look at hosted versions of their other applications, especially if it’s less expensive. Small businesses care less about hype and more about whether or not something works. So, do I think all the software as a service companies will come up with channel programs? I DO think that and NetSuite will continue to flirt with partners, but they’ve got a long way to go. What it DOES mean is that the case for big software upgrades from established software developers, including Vista, will continue to be hard to make.

Sleeper Trend #3: Apple technology will continue to backdoor its way into the business world.
I’ve been reading all sorts of articles and analysis reports lately about the iPhone and its effectiveness as a business tool. I can tell you firsthand that it wasn’t designed to be all that easy to use with corporate e-mail and calendaring accounts, but there are workarounds. Here’s another telling stat: During the third quarter, Apple was expected to ship about 1.34 million Macintosh PCs, or about 8.1 percent of all systems shipped in the quarter. There is still a substantial gap between Apple, and Dell and Hewlett-Packard in this regard. However, Apple’s shipments grew more than 37 percent year-over-year. And, it’s worth noting that its shipments during the quarter were higher than Toshiba, which just introduced a series of new notebooks. Certainly, corporate accounts still frown on Apple, but small businesses and midsize companies are more willing than ever to consider the alternative.

Sleeper Trend #4: People will get smarter about what data and files they store.
The more I learn about storage software, the more I marvel about its potential to make our life easier—if we would only use it properly. I believe that data deduplication will become a mantra that is used as often in 2008 as compliance was 18 months ago. Both humans and storage systems could stand to be more efficient about what data is kept and how it is catalogued. There’s something to be said for librarians. Heck, maybe the field of library science can jump in here and help us.

Sleeper Trend #5: Someone, somewhere WILL find a way to solve the ridiculous spam deluge that wastes so much of our collective time.
It’s one thing to manage incoming e-mail on a high-speed corporate network. It’s another thing, entirely, to have to wade through dozens of junk messages on a wireless handheld device just to get what you need. While I don’t know who has the answer right now, you can bet that the second someone comes up with a truly effective spam filter that lets all the right stuff through and prioritizes it, we’ll hear about it. Better yet, why don’t YOU come up with the solution and please let ME know about it as quickly as possible.

What do you think will creep up on you in the New Year? Share your thoughts and comments via e-mail at

Heather Clancy is a business journalist and communications consultant who has been covering the high-tech channel for more than 18 years.

December 27, 2007  2:16 PM

Will the IT economy go south in 2008?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

I’m supposed to write some insightful list of predictions this time of year. Once I figure out what to say, I’ll get right on that. But first, I wanted to write about some survey results released a few days ago by uber-solution provider CDW.

The data, part of a report called the CDW IT Monitor , suggests that it will be harder for VARs and systems integrators to convince their customers to increase their spending plans in 2008. This will be especially true of small businesses, apparently, which isn’t great news for any solution provider focused predominantly on this sector. Only 38 percent of all the respondents (1,072 IT decision makers) plan to add more money to their IT budgets during the year. Breaking it down demographically, only 26 of small businesses intend to spend more compared with 46 percent of midsize companies and 43 percent of large companies.

One reason could be that small businesses aren’t having their expectations met: About 52 percent of them reported that technology had helped improve financial performance or efficiency. This compares with 69 percent of midsize companies and 71 percent of larger enterprises. (Incidentally, government agencies were even happier: Close to 80 percent of the decision makers report that they have realized an appreciable improvement in their financial bottom line as a result of implementing technology.
So, does this spell trouble for VARs and resellers betting big on small business? I’m choosing to look at things a little differently. Sure, it probably means that it may be tougher to sell your client on a brand-new, end-to-ind unified communications system. But things with a very clear return on investment potential—one you can demonstrate very clearly—may go a long way toward boosting both small business IT budgets AND their happiness with what they’re getting.

Heck, you’re out there living this every day. Why don’t you tell me? E-mail your observations, predictions, comments and so forth to Heather Clancy at Meanwhile, I’ll watch for the next CDW monitor, which is due out in a couple of months.

Heather Clancy is a high-tech business journalist who has been watching comings and goings in the high-tech channel for more than 18 years.

December 24, 2007  11:56 AM

Diamond steps down from top ePartners slot

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Howard Diamond, who has been CEO and chairman of ePartners, is relinquishing the CEO post.  Michael McCarthy has been promoted from president to CEO, according to  a  company statement posted last week. 

It was unclear from that release whether Diamond would remain chairman. A spokeswoman was unsure about the chairmanship.

McCarthy and Diamond have worked together for years, at the old Corporate Software and then at Level 3 Communications, which bought Corporate Software in early  2002. A few months later, Level 3-with Diamond-snapped up Software Spectrum, another big LAR, and merged its operations with those of Corporate Software.

At one point, Corporate Software was the largest of the Large Account Resellers or LARs selling Microsoft, Lotus and other software to big  companies. Software Spectrum was one of its biggest rivals.

Diamond has been chairman and CEO of ePartners since 2005 when he came out of retirement to manage  the merger of EYT and ePartners, two large Microsoft Business Solutions partners.

Howard has been an articulate champion of the value that software partners can bring customers. For example, last year he spoke to me about how ePartners derived the bulk of its revenue from its own customization and specialization work atop the Microsoft stack, not from reselling the stack components themselves. As we all know, those margins are mighty thin.

In this age of Web-enabled software distribution, it’s more  important than ever that software partners continually build and bolster their vertical and domain expertise.

In other words, don’t rely on your vendor partners to provide you with the margins needed for survival. They’re fighting the same battles you are, so if you want a friend, get a dog. If you want to survive, make sure your value stays current and, well, valuable!

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area reporter, can be reached at

December 19, 2007  10:40 AM

Big channel questions loom in 2008

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

What will be the defining partner issues of the coming year? Here’s a completely unscientific take on what solution providers of all stripes should watch for.

One: Will Dell’s new-found (or born again)  channel religion take? Can EqualLogic’s Don Bulens endow what partners see as Darth Vader with his good partner karma?

Two: Will VMware forestall the coming-from-everywhere virtualization onslaught? Current players like Citrix/Xensource are gunning for it as are VM newbies Oracle and Microsoft. If Microsoft stumbles with its Windows 2008/Hyper-V combo, VMware’s head start may prevail and its lock on enterprises continue. Should Hyper-V soar, Microsoft could be the go-to virtualization player at least in smaller companies and then it must wrestle with vexing licensing issues. How to adjust pricing when customers will have to buy fewer copies of the OS?

Three:  Will single-core, single-processor computers go the way of the buggy whip and the Edsel? Could be.

Four: Can/will Google transform itself into a power within the firewall? It’s using its appliance and apps as Trojan horses but will IT really tolerate this consumer-led push? Can it afford not to?

Five: Conversely, can Microsoft transform itself into a software-as-a-service power? Microsoft, unlike Google, has to defend its on-premise turf. Will it figure out how to bring its partners along for the ride? Or throw them under the bus?

Six: Can Hewlett Packard beat back Dell’s new partner efforts to build on its hardware dominance? Will HP partners defect?

Seven: Can Microsoft regroup from its  under delivered Vista? Will SP 1 re-invigorate the market, spur “killer app” development? Or will Redmond simply declare victory and start hyping the next release?

Eight: Will computer retail survive/prosper? Was  CompUSA’s demise a sign of things to come in retail consolidation or just a specific case of mismanagement and missed opportunities?

Nine: Will the iPhone parlay its blockbusting consumer popularity into the enterprise? Will it “work well with others” as in existing  corporate e-mail and other systems? Or will the corporate classes cling to their Blackberries?

Ten: Will Microsoft sort out its self-hosted ERP puzzle? The company wants to offer hosted options for its apps but so far has been publicly mum on what could be called “ERP Live.” Maybe it can’t figure out which of its four (count ’em, four!) ERP lines should be the underlying code base?

Bonus item: Who will win the unified communications marathon? Networking powerhouse Cisco or application dominator Microsoft? Or could there be a dark horse?

Barbara Darrow, a Boston-area reporter, can be reached at

December 18, 2007  8:51 AM

Resolve to under-promise and over-deliver in 2008

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

I get sort of stubborn about using my mobile gadget to bridge my person and business life. It’s pretty simple: I forget things.

This has caused all sorts of heartache for me in the past, especially when it comes to synchronizing my various smart phones with both my work and personal computers. Just yesterday, I realized on the train to New York City for a meeting that I had NO idea where said meeting was to take place. My software ate my homework, mom. Today, I’m still fighting with the application that caused the problem. But I will insist on using my iPhone.

So, I took a sort of sick pleasure from the findings of a survey released last week by Tata Consultancy Services, the big systems integration and consulting company based in India. At the highest level, its research shows that one-third of all IT projects fail to meet their original expectations. Sadder yet, 43 percent of the IT organizations surveyed say the business and board side of their business expects failure as the norm.

The most common misalignments are related to botched timing (cited by 62 percent of the respondents), budget (49 percent) and unanticipated maintenance costs (47 percent).

Mike McCabe, director of communications for the North American division of Tata, said the survey touched about 800 IT managers in companies with more than 250 employees. Tata actually conducted the survey to get a sense of how it performs relative to the industry norm. Since the integrator didn’t survey its customers with the same questions, it’s hard to draw any kind of concrete comparisons. However, McCabe says Tata delivers on time 87 percent of the time, which puts it in a relatively good position with respect to where most IT projects usually underperform expectations.

What does it mean for your own business as a solution provider?

It’s pretty simple: it’s so much easier to manage customer service when the customer knows what to expect. When you’re setting goals, honesty is the best policy and it may be better to walk away from an opportunity than to go into a situation knowing that you can’t deliver.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: