Editorial: Something old, something new

Editorial: Something old, something new

Without wishing to crow, it was great to hear Websense had reversed its decision to drop distribution partner, Alstom IT.

If Alstom's general manager, Greg Newham, is to be believed, the distributor had its contract ripped up three months ago for failing to meet expectations it didn't know existed. As is so often the case, it seems a lack of communication between the two companies was at the root of the problem.

But whatever led to the initial split, the re-engagement paid tribute to the sometimes unseen (but no less valuable) edge a distributor can bring to relationships between vendors and resellers. The notion of value-add can be vague (and is often abused) but vendors take note - working with an effective distribution partner will offer you more than space on the shelves of a warehouse.

Websense is not the first vendor to make such a U-turn - Cisco and Tech Pacific/Ingram Micro springs readily to mind - and there can be no doubt it won't be the last. So let's give the security vendor's president, Curt Staker, full credit for holding his hand up and admitting it had made a mistake in terminating the partnership back in April and wish both companies good luck in their renewed partnership.

Another security vendor, Crossbeam Systems, is also turning to the channel to grow its local sales. It announced last week it would be partnering with LAN Systems (see page 4 of ARN, July 20 issue).

But perhaps more interesting from an overall market perspective is the news that LAN will look to increase its presence in the small and medium business arena during the year ahead. General manager, Wendy O'Keeffe, said the move was part of a global directive from parent company, Westcon.

Back in March, Westcon corporate marketing president, Duncan Potter, visited Australia to teach the LAN team about a new marketing tool he had devised called SalesVision. He said at the time that this was part of a broader initiative based on four key elements - lead generation, technology migration, creating opportunities for advanced technologies and end-user capture.

About two-thirds of LAN Systems' reseller partners are currently focused on enterprise customers, but with small business growing significantly faster than any other sector of the IT market, SMB offers the networking distributor a great opportunity to grow organically without any significant alterations to its core focus of security, storage and telephony.

It also speaks volumes about the growing maturity of the local IT market to see some of these complex technologies being pitched to SMB. Many of these target end-users would have baulked at the idea of networking a couple of computers in the not too distant past.

Looking to move downstream will take LAN into waters more readily associated with broad-based players like Ingram Micro and could be seen in some ways as playing the country's largest distributor at its own game. After all, Ingram has clearly signalled its intent to attack the enterprise strongholds of more specialist competitors such as LAN, Express Data and Alstom.

It will be interesting to look at the market a year from now and see which of these players has had more success in growing a thriving customer base outside of its comfort zone.

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