Sun Microsystems Australia is creating a partner directory on its Web site as it continues to drive a larger share of its business through channel partners.
The directory, already compiled for the vendor’s US partners at http://solutions.sun.com, provides a list of partners for each solution desired by a potential customer.
On the directory, partners will be able to provide a profile of their business, listing their specific skills and reference sites. They will also be able to specify which solutions and vertical markets they specialise in. Subsequently, a customer could log on to the site seeking a specific solution (a customer relationship management solution, for example) from a partner that specialises in their specific vertical (manufacturing, say) in their geographical area.
The Australian office of Sun is currently compiling and classifying its channel partners to launch the directory locally by February or March.
“We are trying to help our partners articulate to the market the problems that they have the skills to solve,” said Paul O’Connor, director of partner sales at Sun Microsystems Australia. “It is a place where partners can articulate their value-add.”
O’Connor said the directory also gives Sun partners an idea of what other partners are specialising in, to ensure they are not all concentrating their efforts on the same sorts of solutions. “Rather than all trying to build solutions for the obvious soft spot in the market, they can ensure they invest profitably by identifying where there are gaps,” he said.
The partner directory is part of a renewed focus on Sun’s reseller partners. O’Connor claims that the new channel program announced in July, which became effective on September 1, is already driving up partner sales.
“It’s only been three months, so it is only early days, but overall we are very pleased with how it is going,” he said. “Naturally there are a few wrinkles to iron out, as you would expect from any new program.”
Since the announcement of the new channel program, the share of Sun’s revenues derived from partners has increased significantly. “Our Q3 results saw partners account for 61 per cent of our revenues, up from just over 50 per cent last year.”
But O’Connor conceded that Sun’s overall revenues have “not grown all that much”. “We are the mercy of the market like most other technology vendors,” he said.
The new channel program covers most of Sun’s products but the vendor is placing particular emphasis on driving sales of its ONE software technology, storage products and StarOffice productivity software through channel partners.
“Around 90 per cent of Sun’s channel business is done through very large partners and their share of the revenues is holding still at the moment,” he said. “But the smaller guys, the specialist and regional VARs, are coming back into the fold and keeping the channel revenues growing.”
The new channel program replaces an accreditation scheme based on volumes with one based on skills (workgroup, enterprise or datacenter-certified, for example). At the inception of the new program, Sun awarded its existing partners with automatic accreditation at “enterprise” level. Channel partners now have six months to sort out which level of accreditation they should be aiming for. Web-based training has been rolled out for the accreditation, and instructor-led training began in October.
The rising StarOffice channel
The introduction of Sun Microsystems’ answer to Microsoft’s dominant office productivity suite has sparked rumours of a completely new channel for the vendor.
But O’Connor claims that StarOffice is more about empowering existing channel partners than connecting with a new breed of reseller.
With the exception of Queensland-based distributor Intellitron, a company that has been granted the rights to distribute the retail version of StarOffice, no new partners have been brought on board specifically for the office productivity suite.
O’Connor said a large number of Sun’s existing channel partners are currently encouraging organisations to trial the enterprise version of the product. “Our existing partners have the skills and are showing the enthusiasm,” he said. “So for the time being we are going to sit back and assess the channel coverage for the product.”
The intention of StarOffice for Sun, its partners and customers, is not in making margins on the new office productivity software, O’Connor said. “On a superficial level, StarOffice is a competitor to Microsoft’s office productivity suite. But the truth is we are never going to make a huge amount of money out of the software or out of supporting the software.”
Office productivity technologies make up around 34 per cent of an average company’s IT spend, O’Connor explained. There are a host of technologies involved in that spend other than the licensing of the office productivity software, but Sun’s channel partners can only offer all of these products if users are not tied to the Microsoft platform.
“There are a whole bunch of products we have at the infrastructure level where we could not have competed while Windows NT was the only choice,” O’Connor said. “StarOffice presents the user with options and our business partners with the choice to architect solutions that consist of various technologies.”
Sun will benefit by being able to offer a productivity suite, and the various software that runs alongside it, on multiple platforms (Windows, Linux, Solaris), whereas Microsoft Office restricts enterprises to using the Microsoft platform.
O’Connor said a large marketing campaign for the StarOffice suite is due to begin later this month.