Changing the Channel: Networking VAR news

October 22, 2009  9:15 PM

Channel advisory board: ‘Watch Cisco like a hawk’

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

Cisco is the company to watch for future acquisitions and business forays, VAR representatives said during Advisory Board call Tuesday. The networking giant’s recent strides into the data center and giving HP potentially serious competition, as well as its plays in UC and video, have shown just what Cisco can accomplish. And many VARs see the company as a competitive threat.

Advisory board members attributed much of this to Cisco CEO and visionary, John Chambers, who one board member likened to former president Bill Clinton.

“I’d be a lot more concerned with John Chambers putting his sights on me than whatever the current CEO of Microsoft is doing,” said one board member.

Chinese telcom giant Huawei also came up as a company to watch in coming months.

Read more of our takeaways from the Advisory Board call in the Channel Marker blog.

October 16, 2009  2:57 PM

Keeping your nose clean when the channel plays dirty

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

You do the right thing. You play by the rules. Then you hear about this: A North Carolina Bonnie and Clyde are charged with bilking Cisco out of $23 million by swindling them into shipping used parts to fake businesses in eight states.

And they’re just the ones who got caught.

A con that big is bound to leave a trail (though it didn’t help that one of the suspects bragged about the scheme on, but it’s probably not a big reach to suggest that there’s some more subtle, smaller-scale dirty tricks going on in the channel.

Corruption creates unfair competition.  How do you make staying clean pay off?

October 14, 2009  4:38 PM

Nortel partner program absorbed into Avaya’s by March 1

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Brian Riggs of Current Analysis has been live-tweeting Avaya’s partner conference in Nashville today, where Avaya announced its new partner program and its new VAR-friendly managed services strategy. Riggs tweeted that Nortel’s partner program will shift to the Avaya channel partner program on March 1 (assuming the Avaya-Nortel deal closes by then. When I interviewed Avaya about this partner reboot, I asked them about how Nortel’s partners fit into the picture. Avaya wasn’t able to offer any specifics. But apparently that information is on the table in Nashville.

Riggs also tweeted that about one-third of the attendees at Avaya’s partner conference are Nortel partners.

October 2, 2009  7:51 PM

Network assessment builds channel business for Atrion Networking

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

Cisco Gold Partner Atrion Networking requires network assessment services for all their customers before offering any other networking services. In this short video, Mark Moretti, director of sales at Atrion, talks about Atrion’s use of network assessment services with their client, Banco de Brasil. Banco de Brasil was in the process creating a U.S. presence and deploying unified communications, and by leveraging their network assessment, Atrion became the general contractor for building out two new data centers to support the company’s needs.

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Learn more about Atrion and network assessments in our podcast on

September 25, 2009  5:48 PM

Westcon consolidates Cisco under Comstor brand to clear up confusion

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Westcon Group, one of the leading distributors of hardware and software in the networking channel, has reorganized in an effort to make it easier for networking channel partners to buy and sell Cisco products globally. Westcon consolidated all of its Cisco distribution operations under the brand Comstor Worldwide this week.

Previously, channel partners would buy their Cisco gear from either a Westcon-branded business or a Comstor-branded business, depending on what part of the world the partner was doing business in. The Comstor brand was a legacy of, the Cisco distributor that Westcon bought in 1999. At the time of the acquisition, Westcon was a distributor of Nortel, Lucent and 3Com products. The Comstor acquisition gave Westcon a thriving Cisco distribution business. Over the years, Westcon has continued the Comstor brand, but it sold Cisco gear under its Westcon and Comstor brands, depending on geography.

This inconsistent brand approach has always caused confusion for networking channel partners who do international business.

“We may have been somewhat confusing over the past couple years over our go-to-market strategy around Cisco,” Westcon Executive Vice President of Global Strategic Initiatives William Corbin told me. “We’ve operated under Comstor and under Westcon. What we’re doing is making a clear delineation that Comstor Worldwide is the organization that houses all our Cisco solutions. That gives [partners] a consistent message.”

This move should be particularly helpful to VARs who do business with companies with international operations. In the past, partners who engaged a U.S. business with offices in Europe or Asia and would face a certain amount of complexity when trying to deliver Cisco products to those overseas offices.  It could engage either a Westcon company or a Comstor company, depending on which country the customer’s offices were in. Now partners will be dealing with one global distributor, Comstor Worldwide.

Not only does this give channel partners better visibility into Comstor’s overseas inventories. It also simplifies the partner’s efforts at complying with international regulatory and tax requirements

Corbin said his company will cease distributing Cisco products under the Westcon brand. That brand will continue operating as Westcon Security, Westcon Collaboration and Westcon Convergence. It will sell only non-Cisco products.

September 21, 2009  8:01 PM

Dell buys Perot Systems: Channel conflict brewing

ElaineHom Elaine Hom Profile: ElaineHom

With the news of Dell’s purchase of technology service provider Perot Systems for $3.9 billion reaching the masses, I can’t help but wonder what Dell plans to tell its channel partners. Perot Systems, founded by the most famous IT service provider to ever run for president, Ross Perot, will become Dell’s service unit as the anchor acquisition for Dell’s global IT services business. (Ross Perot also seems to have the Midas touch as a service provider — he founded Electronic Data Systems in 1962 and sold it to GM in 1984 for $2.5 billion, which had a revenue of over $21 billion before HP bought it last year. If only he had this much skill in running a presidential campaign.)

It is a strategic move on Dell’s part. In the past, their service offerings have been basic, compared to larger competitors like IBM and HP. Acquiring Perot allows them to provide consulting and systems integration services at a higher level. Continued »

September 17, 2009  4:31 PM

Helping your customers with Nortel-Avaya integration

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

It’s official: Nortel has approved a $915 million bid from Avaya for its Enterprise Solutions business.

What this means for customers, and channel partners, is a gradual merging of the two companies’ unified communications (UC) portfolios, with eventual phase-outs for redundant products. But there’s no rush to rip and replace any gear just yet, as Jessica Scarpati reports on As quoted in the article, Henry Dewing, a principal analyst at Forrester Research said “I don’t expect to see [Avaya CEO] Kevin Kennedy walk out on the day after the deal closes and say, ‘We’re no longer going to manufacture X, Y and Z products.’ …I think there will be incremental changes.”

But channel partners can still help Nortel customers get through the transition more smoothly, since those customers may be uncertain what move to make next, as analysts told Scarpati:

“Those organizations that work with VARs [value-added resellers] should really rely on their VARs to walk them through the process,” said Vanessa Alvarez, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

It’s unlikely there will be “any immediate threat” to Nortel products, meaning users should use this time to plan, said Zeus Kerravala, a senior vice president at Yankee Group.

“[Users should] do whatever they could to find out either from the VAR or from Avaya directly what stays and what goes because that’s an important part of the decision process. I wouldn’t make any large purchases right now,” he said. “Just stay the course, and as soon as you can, try to find out how these two product lines are going to be integrated.”

Avaya may also be offering valuable incentives for customers to shift from Nortel to Avaya products. Earlier this year, Avaya introduced a program, in effect until May 2010, offering Nortel partners an opportunity to earn an additional 5% on deals in which they sell Avaya products. But Lazar didn’t think Avaya would withdraw support for Nortel any time soon:

“I would suspect that Avaya will provide very attractive options for Nortel’s customers to think about migrating to Avaya systems,” Lazar said. “But they are constrained by the economy. Companies don’t have money to spend on new systems, so Avaya will need to support Nortel systems for a long time. I’d expect most of the cuts would come in project management and development.”

Nortel’s enterprise customers may also be feeling anxious about their routers and switches being supported by a telephony vendor, which is another opportunity for the VAR to step in and offer support or advice on where to go next.

September 8, 2009  9:51 PM

Protect your laptop when you travel — with a gun

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

As a channel partner, chances are that even if you’re using more Web conferencing these days, you still have to travel for work. And you probably have to travel for work with one or more laptops. It’s no fun going through security and having to take your computer out of your bag, but it’s even less fun checking expensive equipment and worrying that it will come out the other side damaged, broken, or not at all.

Security expert Deviant Ollam suggests a novel approach: Carry a gun.

I’m not talking about going all Yosemite Sam on the baggage handlers. Ollam’s suggestion, as he presented at the LayerOne 2009 conference, is that by declaring firearms at the airport, you gain the ability to use super secure luggage with non-TSA-approved locks, and the locked luggage can also contain your expensive computer equipment. So much the better if you needed your Glock for that sales meeting.

As Chad Perrin points out in his TechRepublic blog, you do need to know and obey the laws concerning firearms and which countries allow them. Ollam’s 40-minute presentation, posted on YouTube with the title Deviant Ollam – Packing and the Friendly Skies – LayerOne 2009, contains many more helpful bits of information about transporting computers and firearms, although it’s not for the language-sensitive or the anti-gun audience.

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September 2, 2009  10:06 PM

Cisco enhances Managed Services Channel Program

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

Yesterday, Cisco launched its updated Managed Services Channel Program (MSCP). As Surinder Brar explains in a short video (below and on Cisco’s Channels blog), “This program is extremely important in the current market because customers now have a preference to acquire technology as a managed service. This is also great for partners, because when you offer technology as a managed service, then it’s not only more profitable, but you have a recurring revenue stream.”

The updates, which were announced in June at the Cisco Partner Summit, went into effect yesterday when the full details were disclosed to the partner community.

Some specific program enhancements are:

  • Support for white-label partner-to-partner relationships, which allows a network operation center (NOC) provider (producer) to offer their services through another enrolled partner (marketer)
  • New relationship branding; the Cisco Managed Services-Master certification reflects a partner’s depth and capability in deploying and managing Cisco technology
  • A shift from service-specific designations to a certification-based program that allows partners to transact all their managed services business with globally predictable discounts and terms
  • Additional net rebate on managed services that qualify for Cisco Powered designation
  • Access to Cisco’s unrestricted products
  • Participation in program incentives, including deal specific authorizations (DSAs)

See Cisco’s Managed Services Channel Program web page to learn more about the program specifics.

August 13, 2009  3:40 PM

Cisco gear end of life sparks controversy

AmyKucharik Amy Kucharik Profile: AmyKucharik

Cisco announced in June that “a whopping $9 billion worth of Cisco gear will hit end of life this fiscal year starting August 1,” SearchITChannel reports. The company is positioning the move as an opportunity for partners to sell more Cisco gear, but many Cisco partners see it as a headache: The VARs will have to take the bad news to their customers and bear the brunt of customer complaints.

At a time when small companies (and, let’s face it, pretty much all companies) are feeling squeezed and worried about their bottom line, a massive forklift upgrade is the last thing anybody wants to pay for — especially for functioning equipment. Cisco, along with some of its partners, maintains that it is up front about its EOL policies and adhering to a normal schedule for dropping support on older equipment, and touts the EOL cycle as a modular upgrade opportunity for resellers. But resellers (and Cisco) could lose out in the end if financially burdened customers decide to take another path — buying from HP or Juniper, or even scouting for used equipment on eBay.

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