Cisco has moved to reassure its existing distributors following the appointment of Ingram Micro to carry its entire range of networking products.
Cisco regional manager channels A/NZ, Suzanne Hansen, said the whole purpose of recruiting Ingram was to expand its customer reach into the SMB market.
"We made an expansion into the SMB space last year by putting on tier-two channel account managers but we missed the distributor development coverage we need in regional areas," she said.
Hansen said the vendor had very specific roles for Ingram, Express Data and LAN Systems to play.
"We are clearly focusing Ingram into taking on regional resellers, which we haven't been dealing with for the last 18 months, as well acquiring new SME partners," she said.
"The three areas we expect to grow are the current install base, SME and advanced technologies. Each of the three distributors is pointed at those different areas."
Express Data and LAN Systems were upbeat despite the addition of a third supplier.
ED boss, Ross Cochrane, said a stronger Cisco would be good for all parties.
"For any vendor, it doesn't make sense to have all your distributors chasing the same market space - you end up creating competition instead of coverage," he said. "The commitment from Cisco has been to gain resellers that aren't dealing with the current distributors and I'm sure they will be measuring that quite carefully."
And LAN Systems' general manager, Wendy O'Keeffe, also insisted three would not be a crowd.
"Of course there will be some conflict but Ingram is there to specifically activate a customer base that wasn't there before," she said. "Ingram can get a lot of breadth and depth, but there is a difference between their customer base, ours and Express Data's."
Cisco's Hansen said the appointment of Ingram reflected changes to its business model rather than any regrets about the decision to drop Tech Pac 18 months ago.
"We are planning for five years of high growth and will have a product base for SME - which we didn't have a year-and-a-half ago," she said. "Our focus back then was on advanced technologies. While that's still the case, we think Ingram Micro will deliver the environment for SME growth."
Hansen also said Cisco was structuring its channel for a future introduction of its products to the consumer and SOHO markets. "Ingram has other product it sells to smaller resellers, so is valuable there, but it also has access to the retail market," she said. "The whole landscape is changing rapidly and Cisco has no real coverage in retail. When we do bring product out, Ingram will be there to get us to that market."
The appointment of Ingram is in line with Cisco's 'Project Distie' initiative, which has seen the vendor looking to reduce the number of distributors it works with globally. Ingram is one of its three senior partners along with Tech Data and LAN Systems' parent company, Comstor. But Hansen denied this had been a factor in the decision.
"Two years ago it might have been a compelling reason but not today," she said. "We are very protective of individual markets and have to do what is right in each one."