When Sydney-based integrator and value-added distributor MUA set up its operation six years ago it was primarily servicing the needs of smaller Unix resellers. Since that time it has grown to become a leading SCO distribution channel, gaining authorised distribution status from both SCO and Compaq.
Now it is servicing the needs of as many as 4,000 clients in the SCO Unix marketplace. "They were primarily vertical market specialists," said MUA managing director Paul McQuarrie, "and they would look after a particular vertical market with their own software, but they wouldn't really be interested in anything like the hardware or the operating system. A few of them actually asked us if we would integrate the Unix onto a computer for them, and in the early days we were just buying clone components and installing the software."
The realisation then emerged that this area could form quite a profitable business, and soon after MUA had shipped its 300th machine it was approached by Compaq to be a distributor of its server products to the SCO marketplace, and more recently across all operating systems.
"For us it's been a terrific move," said McQuarrie, "because it allowed us to firmly put our foot in the middle of systems integration for the Unix business. We've become fairly well known throughout the SCO Unix arena, in that if you have a difficult problem getting some part of SCO to run on a piece of hardware, call on MUA." He says further recognition of this came about earlier this year when SCO nominated MUA as its authorised support centre for the region. MUA currently employs 25 SCO support people, more than any other organisation, says McQuarrie.
While SCO products are also distributed through Com Tech, McQuarrie feels MUA serves a different part of the market. "They look after mostly the large resellers, like BTA, Ferntree, and Southmark, who have a lot of their own internal expertise in their own support departments. That's about half of the SCO marketplace. The other half goes into the very large number of very small resellers."
It is these smaller resellers that MUA supplies to. "And those smaller resellers that we look after typically have expertise in a particular industry, because they probably came from it: like a vet who wrote a software package for vets. And they really don't want to have to learn or stay abreast of all the hardware technologies that keep coming out. And so what they ask for in a company like us is somebody who will be the provider of either the whole system or maybe just some element."
McQuarrie says that despite the large amount of attention being paid to Windows NT there are still many sound reasons for developing on the SCO Unix platform. "SCO is still for the vast majority of applications in our part of the marketplace the best database environment for all of the resellers that we have that sell an application that is mostly a database. And it will be for quite a long time because SCO is extremely efficient."
He believes that NT is making inroads in situations such as where a customer might want file and print as well as database serving and want to consolidate on one platform. Compaq is also keen to open up its NT server channel through MUA, and hence he expects to receive calls regarding these products, said McQuarrie. "Compaq are referring a lot of the new type of customers across to us, and I'd say that in addition to the new ones coming across, something like 5 per cent of our existing reseller channel is doing something with NT.
"NT does exist out there; some of the resellers are asking for it. And if we stick our head in the sand and say we won't provide it to them then that would mean some of the resellers would have to go elsewhere. We're not prepared to let that happen." Scalability issues with NT and difficulty in porting applications will also slow down any potential migration away from Unix, McQuarrie said.
While MUA has made a name as a SCO distributor, it also distributes a large number of complementary products, such as networking hardware from Eicon and Stallion, and storage devices from DPT.
MUA also offers telecommunications services, with the ability to provide complete leased line solutions from Telstra. MUA's line rental service now has over 500 connection points, all fully remote managed from MUA's head office. McQuarrie says leased lines now account for 25 per cent of MUA's total business.
On top of this, MUA has also launched a one-stop Internet connection service for resellers, called Internet Web Pack, providing a server, router, domain name, leased line and connection to service provider Microplex, all for a monthly fee.