Faced with a continuing tight economy and slow IT sales, Sun Microsystems is reaching out to maintain its market share by helping its resellers better serve end users.
At its iForce Partner Summit 2002 in Florida attended by some 275 resellers, Sun unveiled a new iForce Partner Program that will for the first time give its channel partners a full line of direct services to better support Sun's customers.
Until now, such services programs were informally organised, said Jon Caputo, vice president of Sun's professional and enterprise services. "It worked in some cases and didn't in others," he said.
The idea, said Larry Baker, director of enterprise services at Sun, is to give Sun's partners the full capabilities of the company, which previously weren't always provided. The goal, Baker said, is to "provide a consistency of services across the whole spectrum".
Gary Grimes, vice president of US sales and partner management, said Sun's resellers will be key to the company's future success. "We cannot do what needs to be done without you," he said.
The news was welcomed by several resellers in Orlando, but some remained sceptical.
Don James, vice president of sales for Cat Technology, a Californian reseller and systems integrator, said Sun still has a lot to prove to its channel partners. "I think Sun is continuing to struggle," he said. "There's a myriad of mixed messages in what they're saying."
At the previous Sun partner summit two years ago, when Sun's sales were healthy, the company disregarded resellers, James said. "They thought they could live without their channel or treated the channel poorly. That's hurt them for the last 18 months."
What has angered resellers has largely been Sun increasingly selling directly to end-user companies and cutting resellers out of the revenue loop, James said. "It hurts Cat and all of our competitors," he said. "Sun continues to book too much business directly, even on accounts that integrators are trying to book with Sun."
"They want exclusivity and loyalty" from resellers, James said of Sun. "But they're not giving you exclusivity or loyalty. They say it's getting better. They've been saying it for several years. It remains to be seen."