ITX unbound -- taking the NC challenge
SYDNEY - Value-added distributor i.t.connXions is positioning itself to be the premier distributor for network computing, by assembling a range of products designed to complement and support each other.
The distributor has strengthened its ties with US terminal and NC maker Boundless Technologies, and has established a relationship with Citrix, the maker of software that allows application sharing off Windows NT servers.
General manager Laurie Sellers says ITX, combined with its relationships with Netscape, Oracle and Digital, now has all the components resellers require to assemble full network computing solutions, because, "The network computer as a device is not a solution to itself - it's just a component."
ITX's relationship with Boundless extends over two years, from when Boundless' parent company took over Digital's VT Terminal business. ITX has only recently pursued the NC products. "It was probably about six months ago that we really took up the challenge of trying to market it, and find out what the market's reaction would be," said Sellers, who adds that a fax-out telling resellers about the products saw the distributor inundated with interest.
Assembling the pieces
Building NCs is a recent move for Boundless, which already has a $100 million business building terminals for numerous vendors, including Digital, Olivetti and IBM. It has recently released a new range, the Viewpoint TC family (see breakout). The new range is unique in that different models can be upgraded from one to another via flash memory upgrades.
Robert Gayle, director of sales and marketing for Boundless Asia, says the cost of ownership arguments supporting NCs are winning favour, as systems administrators realise the attraction of "getting their arms around" computing again.
"We made a quantum leap from the dumb text terminals to terribly smart terminals, and we skipped over the half-smart terminals," said Gayle. "And that's about where we're going back to. You pick up a little more security, a little more control, you still have the flexibility to run applications, but it's on the server."
He says that while NCs represent the future for Boundless, he sees the terminal market continuing well into the future. "You can't neglect a $100 million a year business, especially one that has some decent profits to it." At present NCs are worth less than $10 million a year to Boundless, but Gayle says it is still early days for the technology, and expects this figure to climb as the units gain acceptance.
To support its network computing vision, ITX has entered a sub-distribution agreement with Omega Computer Systems, the local representatives of Citrix, which allows ITX to supply Citrix WinFrame and ICA client software to resellers at distribution prices.
Rob Milne, ITX product manager for Boundless, says such relationships are essential to support network computing. "To really have success with thin client technology you need a range of connectivity tools, to support people's legacy systems. People may want to run mainframes and need terminal emulation environments; they may run X terminals; they may run intranet solutions with browser technology. We have terminal emulation from Attachmate, X emulation from Hummingbird, and intranet software from Netscape.
"So besides bringing technical and marketing support to Boundless, we're bringing the whole range of products, and resellers can take the whole solution. We think that's the strategy to sell the technology, because the thin client alone is not the solution."
Sellers says support of network computing parallels ITX's overall aim as a distributor. "Our strategy has always been to try and bundle products into a solution, never just pick a product because it seemed like a good idea at the time, so that if a reseller has an opportunity to sell a product, they've really got an opportunity to sell five products. And we spend a lot of time educating the resellers to recognise the potential of the other products we have, because they all complement each other."
Sellers says a further opportunity exits for resellers by way of greater margins on NCs than PCs. He adds that the market is not yet mature enough for discounting to have taken hold.
Interestingly, he says one of ITX's major vendors, Digital's PC business unit, is excited by the opportunities NCs offer. "They don't have an NC, and so they are helping to promote it, because the money for them is not in desktop PCs, the money for them is in the servers. So if we can help to sell big servers by putting NCs on, they love us."
Thin client, thick margins
Sellers says ITX has received interest in NCs from numerous resellers, including large systems integrators and network resellers. The distributor also took out a stand at this year's Microsoft Solution Provider conference and demonstrated the NC up there. "This was probably a bit of a brave move on our part, and we stimulated quite a bit of interest from there," said Sellers.
Although still early days, Sellers says ITX has several good prospects and pilots under way.i.t.connXionsTel (02) 9415 0550Fax (02) 9417 8870