Ingram Micro is gearing up for another assault on the local Cisco market. The distribution giant has made little impact since gaining limited access back in May 2005 but hopes the vendor's focus on SMB will finally see it gain some traction.
Ingram currently accounts for 5-10 per cent of local distribution sales, according to Cisco channel manager, Jeff Sheard. But it appointed Nic Anastas as a dedicated business manager about four months ago and he now leads a team that also includes a product manager, a sales specialist and three business development managers.
The distributor's managing director, Guy Freeland, said it recorded its best Cisco month for some time in August. "It's taken a while for Ingram Micro and Cisco to understand each other but we have spent a considerable amount of time restructuring around the SMB product set," he said. "We want to see that validated and early signs suggest it is starting to bite."
Sheard said the launch of Cisco's UC500 and Smart Business Communications Suite would help drive the Ingram partnership. While Express Data and LAN Systems were also being incentivised to grow SMB sales, he said more focus would be put on Ingram. "I think we can build a profitable high-growth model with Ingram in SMB because they have fantastic coverage," he said. "We don't have a high profile with a lot of those resellers because they think Cisco is a big, ugly American vendor at the top end of town."
That perception looks likely to take some shifting. Evolve IT is one reseller that would certainly fit the target profile but managing director, Nick Moran, said it preferred to resell D-Link networking gear because it was difficult for smaller partners to compete in the Cisco channel.
Furthermore, tier-two Cisco integrators contacted by ARN expressed a preference for sourcing product through Express Data or LAN Systems. Accucom is heavily focused on Cisco but sales manager, Anthony Sarkis, said it had not used Ingram since it was brought on back in May 2005.
"Stock has always been an issue and, to be honest, we don't even look any more," he said. "Most of our projects are stock-driven and we know ED or LAN will either have the stock or get it quickly."
Professional services manager for Southern Cross Computer Systems (SCCS), Stephen Cohen, said it usually bought Cisco equipment from Express Data.
"I just think ED engages with us more than Ingram Micro and has a better relationship with Cisco," he said. "We always get calls from our account manager and know the skills are there if we need pre-sales support. Ingram Micro has a good website but the account management has dropped off a bit in the past year."
A lack of contact from Ingram was also cited by Allcom Networks technical director, Andrew Leigh, and Astron Technology sales and marketing manager, John Deacon.
"I'd forgotten Ingram had Cisco to be honest. That's how little focus they have on it," Deacon, said. "Due to our relatively small size, we have external partners that are trusted to engage with our clients.
"We have that kind of relationship with LAN Systems because they have more senior staff with technical and client-facing skills. We haven't even been approached by Ingram."
While admitting it hadn't been very proactive in the past six months, Ingram's Freeland said this was because it had been preparing a more structured attack. He predicted resellers would see a noticeable difference in the next three months.
One integrator that has recently investigated buying Cisco equipment from Ingram Micro is Efficient Data Communications. Director, Andrew Lowy, said it previously worked with Tech Pacific but had been buying the bulk from LAN Systems for the past six years. He recently engaged Ingram as a secondary supplier.
"I keep trying Ingram Micro, and have now got the point where I am happy to work with them, but it took them a while to get it together," he said. "They had their own part numbers until recently and it was a nightmare to find anything.
"They've now fixed that but Ingram is still a large organisation and it can be difficult to get through to the person you need to speak to."
Although confident of making the Ingram partnership successful, Cisco's Sheard was under no illusion that it will happen quickly or easily.
"I'm not saying there will be any miracles or a sudden turnaround but we will get there," he said. "We are both big companies determined to make this partnership work and I wouldn't want to bet against us.