Intel has acknowledged a shift in the power base of the channel with the launch last week of a program tailored for ISPs. According to one of the 10 ISP partners already signed up in Australia, the program is designed to equip ISPs with the technology and skills to provide the small-to-medium business sector with small pre-configured networks.
Matthew Newman, general manager of ISP Dynamic Bell's NetWorld (DBNW), said it is also an opportunity for Intel to marry its existing IT resellers with the burgeoning ISP channel.
"For ISPs to survive in this market, they've got to be value-added resellers, and Intel is the biggest supplier," he said.
But while the program may represent a potential threat to resellers, Intel claims the program is not intended to replace Intel's current channel.
ISPs will, for the time being at least, only deal with existing distributors and authorised channel partners.
William Foran, Intel Australia's Internet channel manager, claimed that it is simply the acknowledgement that ISPs are already playing a significant role in the supply of network hardware.
Foran said the small-to-medium business sector needs quick turnaround of pre-configured small networks, and the program will focus on the demands of this sector.
"We're looking at developing networking solutions for five workstation sites that will be up and running in 24 to 48 hours of the order," Foran said.
"This [program] is not another player entering the market," asserted Foran. "The ISPs are already in it and many have already established partnerships with assemblers and resellers," he added.
Although size is a consideration, Intel is not just looking to sign up the big boys. Intel Australia is looking for certain requirements in its ISP partners including: a suitable level of customer support, bandwidth access to the Internet and a port or modem-to-customer ratio no higher than eight to one.
"I'm looking for ISPs that want to move up the services ladder with Web development, e-commerce hosting and tele-hosting services. We want to work with smart industry players who see the opportunity, and if you've built an ISP business, you certainly know how to set up a network," Foran said.
The Intel ISP program is aimed at the estimated 14,000 ISPs and applications service providers (ASPs) worldwide, as well as value-added resellers (VARs). According to Intel, ISPs are moving away from their traditional role as just access providers to suppliers of Internet access equipment.
"We believe the Internet economy is exploding, and right now chaos reigns," said Robby Swinnen, director of Intel's Internet Service Provider Program. "Business models are being expanded and e-business is booming. It's a natural for us."
Intel describes the ISP program as a means to deliver server and networking "building blocks" to ISPs and ASPs.