A prominent wireless distributor has branded network integrators and resellers as little more than lapdogs if they continue to maintain single-vendor ties.
Ross Chiswell, CEO of Integrity Data Systems, has warned resellers about engaging in "catalogue selling" of brand-name equipment rather than basing solutions on customers' needs.
"Our best resellers are not the mainstream integrators," he said. "The mainstream integrators seem to stick with a particular vendor and only have one way of solving a problem. The best resellers are more knowledgeable - they look at an organisation's business issues and then decide on the technology.
"Vendor-aligned resellers are so hung up on having to reach vendor numbers, they have become locked in a box and are less relevant as advisers to their customers," he said.
Integrity Data Systems distributes wireless technology from a variety of small, innovative vendors that Chiswell seeks out at trade shows in the US and Europe. He believes recent reports of bungled implementations and major security breaches in wireless networks are the result of a box-moving channel that worries more about siding with major vendors than providing the best solution for a customer's needs.
Network integrators, however, argue that strong vendor relationships play an important part in keeping them in business.
David Evans, general manager of Volante Solutions, said his networking division actively seeks to work with the top-tier vendors and that a balanced approach between these relationships and the customer's bottom line is needed for a successful implementation.
"Working with vendors is really important because they tend to give you a lot of lead generation," he said. "They create new markets for you."
Graham O'Keefe, CEO of wireless integrator SkyWire, said the various vendors in the wireless space have products that suit a particular application or area of usage. "At the same time, all the vendors tend to overlap at some point," he said.
Michael Feldbauer, of IT services firm Territory Technology Solutions, said he too looks to sell one particular hardware brand during an implementation and only steps outside that boundary for one or two products the brand-name vendor does not cover. "The major vendors tend to look after you when it comes to product support," he said. "You'd rather they know you than be just another number."
A source at a major networking integrator, who preferred not to be named, said resellers are always under pressure to toe the vendor line. "One has to reach certain milestones to make the accreditation worth the effort," he said. "And when a vendor has generated a lead and they are going to pass it to a reseller, would you rather be thought of as a loyal partner or a vendor-agnostic integrator?"
Chiswell said recent discoveries about the security holes in wireless local area networks (LANs) are evidence of the growing lack of expertise being shown by resellers too closely aligned to one particular vendor. "When you hear about these major breaches, that's people not even doing the basics," he said.
Chiswell said that the major vendors jumped on the publicity bandwagon around these security breaches to advocate one particular standard or product to solve the variety of security holes that can be present in a wireless network.
"It is disappointing when vendors and people at high levels in our industry just claim that one standard, a standard that might not even be fully ratified yet, is the complete answer to everyone's problems," he said. "Don't believe the marketing hype. Once you understand security issues, you will know the different ways you can address them."
Chiswell said most of the wireless LAN products sold by major vendors are manufactured under OEM agreements. "Wireless is not a core focus for the brand-name vendors; it's a fringe product they throw in with the mix. Quite often they just wait for a technology to mature then buy one of the smaller players and smack their brand name on it."
Chiswell said resellers and integrators are doing themselves a "disservice" unless they educate themselves with vendor-agnostic training courses around implementation and security.
"My message to resellers is differentiate yourself through education," he said. "If you train, you will make the right recommendations and put the system in right the first time.
"If people continue to only look at brand, they forget innovation. Where then, will the next generation of technology come from?"