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Microsoft: We’re not late to virtualization, we just don’t brag about it

Synnex kicks off the Varnex Spring Conference touting the benefits of membership and its plans for growth

NEW ORLEANS — While Synnex Corp. has realized some success with its Varnex partner group, the distributor is still on a recruiting path for the program, the company said Monday during its Varnex spring conference.

Since the last Varnex event in November, the program has grown from 275 enrolled partners to 287. Although that’s not a huge increase, the new partners signed on are larger than those who have departed, which increases the total addressable market, said Mike Brogan, president and CEO of Erbs Technology Solutions and president of the Varnex advisory council.

Brogan said the goal is still to have 350 partners enrolled in the program, which focuses on selling to the small and medium sized business (SMB) market. There are several U.S. states without any members yet.

According to Brogan, Varnex members grow faster than non-members in terms of revenue generation , earning $170 million in the first quarter 2012, a 21 per cent growth from the same quarter in 2011.

Last year, Synnex set out an arguably ambitious goal of $100 million of incremental margin growth in 18 months for Varnex partners. In the last six months, the company has reached $20 million, with another $20 million of untapped potential from partners not fully capitalizing on Varnex’s offerings, according to Bob Stegner, senior vice-president of marketing for North America at Synnex. “Don’t leave money on the table,” he told partners. “We need you to use the stuff and, if not, tell your council other things you might need.”

Synnex has also worked to make its newsletters and other material more valuable and informative for partners. “I think we need to do a better job of communicating,” Stegner said, which will help with partner retention as well. This week’s conference has also implemented a “buddy system,” where new partners pair up with those who have been involved with the program longer to learn about its resources.

The distributor is also working on Varnex University, an education program with courses for new sales representatives and a “master’s” level program for veteran salespeople who may need more training in the shift to managed services models. The sales training focus may also eventually branch out to more business education in areas such as human resources, Brogan said.

Stegner also said to watch for more social media presence from the company, partly through the hiring of Mary Ellen Grom, its vice-president of U.S. marketing who joined in February.

Synnex will also hold two smaller Varnex events this summer in Greenville, S.C. and Fremont, Calif. for members to network with their outside sales reps and other Synnex executives.

The virtualization opportunity

The Varnex conference audience also heard from Microsoft Corp.‘s senior director of U.S. SMB channel group, Eric Martorano, who touted the company’s “emerging” product lines as the real opportunity for its partners. Its SystemCenter 2012 products, for example, include simplified licensing for standard and data centre versions, to make selling it easier.

While some critics have said Microsoft is late to the virtualization game, Martorano argued that’s not the case. “I actually think we’re not late to the game but it’s a situation where we haven’t been pounding our chests about what we have,” he said. “We don’t talk about winning until we’ve won.”

Admittedly, the company still has a long way to go to take on VMware Inc., but he said 2012 is that vendor’s last year as king of the virtualization hill. The company has also introduced a new management and virtualization competency for partners, going live in May, with the roadmap for silver and gold competencies available now.

The Varnex Spring Conference continues through Tuesday.

Follow Harmeet Singh on Twitter: @HarmeetCDN