Sun plans channel overhaul

Sun Microsystems is discontinuing its SunFund MDF scheme ahead of a total revamp of its existing iForce channel programme, planned for September 2005. Sun has also confirmed its intention to appoint a volume-focused distributor in the Middle East to complement the value-added distribution activities of Tech Access.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  August 7, 2005

Sun Microsystems is discontinuing its SunFund marketing development fund (MDF) scheme ahead of a total revamp of its existing iForce channel programme, planned for September 2005. A brand new MDF fund will go live for partners in February 2006. Sun has also confirmed its intention to appoint a volume-focused distributor in the Middle East later this year to complement the value-added distribution activities of Tech Access, which currently serves as the vendor’s exclusive distribution partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Sun’s channel overhaul promises an even greater focus on vendor alliances, independent software vendors (ISVs), systems integrators and developers. The vendor has set up a new partners and alliances sales organisation (PASO) to reflect the proposed change in channel emphasis. Bruno Haubertin, previously channel sales manager at Sun MENA is now heading up the PASO team in the region. “The iForce partner programme that we have run so far was more targeted at resellers,” said Haubertin. “Somebody has taken a step back and said let’s look at the resellers, but let’s also try to have a real partnering and alliance programme that also touches the ISVs, the systems integrators and the other complementary vendors and suppliers.” The replacement for the iForce channel programme is expected to introduce more partner categories into Sun’s go-to-market model. iForce itself could even be dropped as the brand name for Sun's global channel engagement model. The discontinuation of the SunFund programme and recruitment of staff for the dedicated SAPO unit in MENA will also allow Sun to achieve better understanding of their share of wallet with individual partners in the region, according to Haubertin. Under the terms of the SunFund, partners accrued MDF on a six-monthly basis in relation to sales achieved. Partners can continue to accrue benefits until 1st October 2005. They will then have until the end of January 2006 to spend the funds allocated before a new scheme is introduced in February 2006. Some 60 partners across MENA had been participating in the SunFund programme. “The reason to discontinue the SunFund was based on partner feedback,” added Haubertin. “Most of the partners felt that this mechanism did not ensure proper coverage in terms of demand generation programmes.” Sun’s channel changes in the MENA region will also encompass its distribution line-up. While the existing Channel Development Provider (CDP) model stays in place, the vendor plans to add a volume channel distributor to complement the activities of Tech Access, Sun’s existing value-added distributor in MENA. “We will have a specialised partner in the near future in MENA with a focus on moving volume product. This model has not been introduced in this region yet but has already proven very successful in Eastern Europe and in a number of countries including Greece, Turkey and South Africa,” added Haubertin. The appointment of a volume-oriented distributor — pencilled in for September or October 2005 — coincides neatly with distribution giant Tech Data’s plan to launch its midrange distribution business unit in the Middle East. Haubertin admits that Tech Data is under consideration for the role. “Today we have the product range in that space but we do not really have the channel. Tech Access is a value distributor and it would be sensible to have a distributor focused on volume as well,” he said. Sun’s structural channel overhaul bodes well for stronger engagement with both partners and customers in the MENA region. “All of the changes that occur between now and February 2006 are aimed at creating better ways for Sun to work together with partners,” concluded Haubertin.

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