As Sun Microsystems uncovers ways to compete against its Wintel competitors, the company recently awarded its channel partners for solution selling.
This year, the awards recognise companies for providing a stronger focus on solutions and services, Sun Microsystem Australia's national sales manager, David Hussey, said.
The company formerly rewarded partners on volume and revenue; now it has morphed the strategy to a value-based approach, Hussey said.
"In the past, the value-based partners were at a disadvantage, so we've changed to a single discount structure and reward for value," he said.
Garnering top marks this year is Dimension Data, which clinched the top system provider spot in Sun's 2003 iForce partner awards.
The company, which provides integration services across a host of verticals including call centres, banks and manufacturing – also garnered three of the five, state-based system provider of the year awards for WA, Queensland and Victoria.
With a view to solving complex computing challenges, the company’s main differentiator is offering a solution focus based on application integration and network infrastructure, two previously separate areas, Dimension Data CEO, Steve Nola, said.
"We are constantly looking for ways to standardise and streamline our clients' IT environments, and we can do this by engaging with our clients throughout the phases of their IT lifecycle," Nola said. "If we are working on a messaging project, we can look to see how this affects not just the server and desktop environment, but also, for example, the client's WAN and identity management systems."
And while Sun had come under fire from some analysts claiming Intel will own the data centre platform by 2007, Hussey said the company was a formidable force as it planned to go after not just the Wintel space, but also Unix and Linux players.
"The analyst concerns are short-term," he said. "They are looking at it from a quarterly performance - ours is long-term. Our strategy is all about reducing cost and complexity, delivering mobility and security for customers so they can access applications using Java, and accelerating network deployment."
And that's where partner skills entered the picture, Hussey said. About 60 per cent of sales were expected to go through the channel.
"The partner community's real strength is in linking the solutions with services" in order to solve a cutomer's IT problems," he said.
For companies such as Dimension Data, the speculation that Wintel was gaining steam and encroaching on sales wasn't a factor, Nola said.
"We don't just sell hardware," he said. "We address a client's issue," Nola said, "ensuring everything from the software platform and then integrating it with the bigger solution and offering support."
Meanwhile, other iForce winners include Frontline Systems Australia (awarded the New South Wales system provider of the year and previous national winner in 2002) as well as Volante (recognised for best South Australian system provider).
On the services front, Dimension also scooped up the Sun ServiceManager of the year award, which recognises system providers for offering service and support across all solutions.
Frontline, meanwhile, picked up the Sun ServiceAssociate award for collecting the most contracts for Sun Services during the year. The services ranked under the Sun Services banner include professional (consultancy), support (equipment and contract maintenance) and educational.
MCR, meanwhile, won the Sun ServiceRepresentative (SSR) award for achieving the highest bookings of support service contacts. The SSR program is designed for system providers with a focus on selling services with Sun providing the administration and support.