No shortage of advice for VARs

HALIFAX — Resellers wanting new opportunities to grow their business need look no farther than managed services, attendees at the three-day Solution Provider Breakaway 2004 were told.

This, after all, is “”the era of management,”” said Christoper Devlin, vice-president of Computer Associates,

to the opening State of the Market panel. The topic was growth strategies.

Managed services, however, is complicated, including areas as diverse as identity management, security, storage and network management.

Devlin admitted even he spends a lot of time putting “”cohesion”” into CA’s channel strategy.

Spread out

But don’t get too spread out, warned Kelley Bush, vice-president and general manager of Interwork Technologies of Ottawa, who was also at the panel.

He stressed the importance of focus. “”Solution-providers tend to fall into one business and then another often trying to be everything to everyone,”” he said, adding it’s better to limit yourself to a specific area such as security, networks or Web analytics.

Panel member Mark Steiman, regional director for Canada at Alternative Technology Inc., urged solution providers to think more strategically, and in effect, try to become “”business-solution”” providers.

“”Many organizations don’t have the investment capabilities of trying to be everything to everybody and need to focus on what they are capable of delivering,”” he said.

Steinman urged solution-providers to especially look for remote management opportunities in the small-to-medium business (SMB) market. Remote monitoring gets around the problem of not having IT or technical staff available in all locations.

The panelists would not have known it, but their comments set the stage for many of the products highlighted as this year’s event.

Small Ottawa-based start-up Level Platform was showcasing a $75-a-month-per-site solution — no contract or lease terms are required — which fills a gaping hole in the lower end of the managed services market, according to Brian Rickert, the firm’s director of sales.

Rickert said the company’s flagship product, called Managed Workplace, is ideal for service providers serving SMBs with five to 500 desktops; and for distributed operations of large enterprises with multiple offices, retail outlets, or franchise sites.

Managed Workplace integrates remote monitoring, real-time alerting, inventory management, Web-based reporting and trouble ticketing, and is scalable based on the service provider.

Also eyeing the remote management market is Raritan Computer Inc., a supplier of keyboard, video and mouse (KVM) switches.

KVM switching has been around a long time, and has even fallen below the radar, but is experiencing a revival in the remote server and IT infrastructure management market, says Jerry Daikow, Raritan’s general manager.

Rare switches

Raritan demonstrated a number of new solutions designed to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) remotely access and manage servers from anywhere using the Internet.

These offerings include IP-enabled KVM switches and Remote IP access devices that add Internet connectivity to existing analog KVM switches.

NetIQ focused its offerings on the security side of managed services with a product called Web Marshall, which offers spam filter protection for e-mail and enforces Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for organizations.

SMBs have no problem outsourcing these functions to solution-providers, says Interwork’s Bush which represents the NetIQ line.

The first step must be for solution providers to build a “”trusted relationship”” with their customers, she added.

When it comes to SMBs, “”the solution providers are in fact, the IT department,”” observed David Allen, distribution sales manager, North America for Intel Americas, Inc.

“”Solution-providers in Canada need to recognize that they can no longer compete on a product basis,”” he said, stressing the newer 64-bit processor platforms will have a number of system management features built in.

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