Whether going up or going down, a battle royal is looming in the SMB market as networking vendors from both ends of the spectrum look to change their market perception. D-Link is the latest vendor to throw its hat in the ring. Last week, it announced a Premier Partner Program designed to tempt value-added resellers and systems integrators into pushing its products into their SMB customer bases. Carrots being dangled include access to business development managers and resources to assist with bids and tenders.
The stated aim for D-Link is to establish itself as the networking vendor of choice for Australian SMBs. We have already written at great length this year about every vendor and his dog making noise about wanting a slice of the SMB pie but it looks like the queue might be longest in the networking market.
D-Link's biggest rival historically, certainly in this country, has been Netgear. Both companies have built solid businesses in the consumer and small business markets but have not really had a lot of joy breaking into the 'm' end of SMB.
Both, it seems, have ambitious aims to change that. Netgear made its move back in February by appointing NetWorld as a distributor of its ProSafe range. Aligning itself with the recently created off-shoot of the Firewall Systems security business, driven by Scott Frew and Nick Verykios, was clearly designed to help improve Netgear's standing with larger integrators and value-added resellers. It is hoping to get a foothold in the local enterprise space (above 500 seats) but a more realistic outcome is serious traction in the higher end of the 50-250 seats market that D-Link has also set its sights on.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, enterprise vendors such as Cisco and Nortel have made no secret of their desire to be seen a serious option for SMB organisations.
Nortel has been spruiking its new SMB kit as 'enterprise technology with an SMB price tag' and Cisco spent almost all of its recent Global Partner Summit talking at great length about its new SMB specialisations.
So we've heard all the pitches but which vendors will win the race? It has to be said that vendors at both ends of the spectrum have credibility issues but that is always the case when breaking into new areas.
For D-Link and Netgear the biggest difficulty will be convincing enough medium-sized organisations (and more importantly their resellers) that support levels are good enough to meet tight service level agreements.
For that reason, Netgear's appointment of NetWorld looks a smart one because the distributor offers advanced replacement services that will ease reseller nerves. D-Link's new targeted approach is also a step in the right direction because it will look to build a select band of specialist integrators that have a proven track record at this level. For Cisco and Nortel, the key to success will be convincing enough smaller resellers that they will be allowed to compete with bigger integrators on a level playing field.
There are also still user perceptions that their products are not priced for the SMB market. Let battle commence.