Seeking to attack the marketplace from all points, IBM has appointed three distribution partners to move its new Network Station NCs through reseller channels.
Long-time IBM specialist distributor ITG will handle volume distribution, while ProVision will take care of opportunities related to the NCD WinCenter marketplace. Long-time RS/6000 business partner and recently-appointed AS/400 distributor Tardis Services will work in those server market spaces. "There are three different aspects that give us pretty good coverage of the requirements of customers and business partners," said IBM's general manager of servers, Andrew Baker.
All three distributors have been charged with providing value-added services for their channels based around the Network Stations, with the units themselves only available through distribution at a tax inclusive price around $1200.
ITG's national sales and marketing manager, Braham Shnider, said his company can offer the complete range of IBM products. "We provide the infrastructure and networking hardware, we can provide the PC server platform, we can provide some of the applications and middleware that run over it, and we can provide both forms of clients - full featured and thin."
He doesn't feel that the skills required to sell network computers are necessarily different from PCs. "The only difference now is that the client is really a simpler client, an easier client to manage, to install. So I don't think it's a major fundamental shift at all. If anything it's simplified and opened up a number of opportunities.
"The opportunity for the channel is not so much in the margin in the hardware but the opportunity of delivering a whole host of services. And I think that's what the channel's really screaming for."
For ProVision, the opportunity will come through its already extensive knowledge of the Citrix-based WinCenter Pro product from NCD, for displaying server-based applications on multiple thin clients - such as the Network Station. "We see the shift is going back into the server in terms of the applications marketplace," said ProVision's Roger Barr. "And we're able to deliver a lot of skills in setting the framework up to support that architecture, while pushing out graphics over networks to low-cost display technology."
Baker said IBM has already held briefings with business partners on the Network Stations, and will be rolling a three-day technical and sales based education program later this month. "It includes things like the roll out of tools to assist business partners and cost comparisons of thin clients to fat clients," he said.
Baker says the Network Station is only a part of the network computing vision.
"While this is a commodity product, it really helps customers open up the whole network computing discussion. And there are many, many customers that end up assessing the opportunity for network computing in their organisation by looking at network stations as an alternative to PCs."
Shnider said ITG resellers have already expressed interest in the product for pilot implementations, with ITG itself to be one of the first. "We're looking forward to putting it into our business, because we've no doubt that we'll save ourselves both a lot of time and money implementing it."