Top 5 Vendors to Watch: Apparent Networks

Vancouver-based Apparent Networks Inc. will be a vendor to watch in 2008 as it ramps up its go-to-market strategy to convert the company from a direct sales force to a channel-based model.

The network performance management software developer hopes to grow its channel program from a handful of resellers at present to approximately 20 solid resellers in 2009. Apparent currently works with non-traditional VARs such as the managed service provider channel through its partnerships with Telus, Rogers and SaskTel as well as other vendor partnerships including PolyCom, Toshiba and Fujitsu.

Jeff Melvin, executive vice-president of Apparent, said the demand for the firm’s technology, which helps users get information on network performance, is there but the challenge is reaching that customer set.

“The companies do not have the information that we can provide them about their network performance today,” said Melvin. “Our biggest challenge is reach. We need to get reach into corporations that are having these problems today.”

Apprent’s products, such as AppCritical, are used to monitor speed, reliability and performance of applications software across networks containing a wide variety of users and devices with a focus on core functions, including storage and security, and functions requiring a great deal of bandwidth such as voice and video over Internet protocol. AppCritical helps network managers measure the performance of applications on the network using Real-Time Performance Monitoring (RPM).

Melvin said the way Apparent can reach into companies with its solution is with a 100 per cent channel strategy, with the exception of its telecom partners and managed service providers, which are a channel onto their own.

Because the partners are a trusted advisor to the customer, Melvin believes they are key to Apparent’s success.

“If we show up with a unique technology, with a good channel program, with a channel mentality, the channel partners (will) embrace this and introduce this to their customers, which is exactly what we want, reach,” he said.

Melvin and more recently appointed CEO, Jack Sweeny, a five-time networking and telecom C-level executive, have experience building out a channel from their days working together at Network Intelligence. (Network Intelligence was bought out by EMC in October 2006). Network Intelligence’s go-to-market strategy was very similar to Apparent’s before it started moving towards a channel model last year.

But Melvin said for him and Sweeney, it came down to a very simple choice.

“You have to make a decision as a company,” he said. “You either are or aren’t going to be a channel company. Then you have to execute around that strategy.”

To get to the point where Apparent is a 100 per cent channel company, which Melvin anticipates will be by the beginning of calendar Q4, Melvin and his team are working on building momentum. Apparent says it will achieve this by not turning resellers down, not charging them to join its program, and by offering 25 per cent margins.

By 2009, Melvin hopes to start weeding out Apparent’s channel program and create two tiers of resellers. But it will remain one tier for now made up of several types of resellers in the form of a pyramid. At the top are system integrators (SIs). In the next quarter (calendar Q1 2008), Melvin said he plans to go out and get one or two national resellers in Canada and the U.S.

By 2009, Melvin anticipates to have three or four national resellers. Underneath SIs, there are regional resellers or companies that are particularly successful in one region out of six regions in both countries. Melvin figures Apparent will have about six to 10 resellers in this category, with two or three in each region by next year. That number will eventually grow to somewhere between 12 and 18 regional players. The remaining group of VARs will be comprised of about six to eight boutique shops spread out regionally.

While Apparent continues to build out its channel in 2008, it will also help resellers along by making its messaging around its product offerings a little clearer.

“We’re in the process of refining down that entire message so that the entire focus of the company is going to be on real time monitoring of customers’ networks,” said Melvin. “We’re going to be focusing on resellers and VARs that fundamentally service the networking teams within these organizations.”

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