Azlan ready to roar

Tech Data is making its long-awaited move into the Middle East value-added distribution space this week. It’s been a long time coming, but the decision has finally been taken to launch Azlan in the region. Azlan, which Tech Data acquired in March 2003, is fast becoming the distribution giant’s EMEA brand for its enterprise business unit (including Tech Data Midrange).

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  November 16, 2005

Tech Data is making its long-awaited move into the Middle East value-added distribution space this week. It’s been a long time coming, but the decision has finally been taken to launch Azlan in the region. Azlan, which Tech Data acquired in March 2003, is fast becoming the distribution giant’s EMEA brand for its enterprise business unit (including Tech Data Midrange).

Tech Data’s decision to launch Azlan in the Middle East marks a significant step forward in the development of the regional channel. There’s a bit more to Azlan than meets the eye now following Tech Data’s restructuring efforts in the EMEA region. Tech Data’s other European value-add distribution business — Tech Data Midrange — has now pretty much been folded into Azlan to form a single unit.

Azlan, which has a presence in 15 countries in Europe, looks like it is going to consist of the former Computer 2000 networking solutions group along with Tech Data Midrange’s hardware and software offerings and Azlan's networking, security and convergence product distribution business. Put simply, Azlan is poised to become the EMEA brand for pretty much everything that Tech Data does in the value-add arena around networking, security, servers and storage, enterprise software and training.

“I believe Tech Data will soon take some decisive steps to clarify the value proposition of its enterprise business,” said one European channel consultant. “Having a dual brand with Azlan and Midrange is confusing to customers and vendors. It also doesn’t reflect the fact that to succeed, enterprise distributors must either be highly focused in a specific niche or offer complete enterprise solutions. Why keep a networking and security arm separate from the servers and storage business — it doesn’t make sense. Tech Data knows that.”

What does Azlan mean for the Middle East channel? It means the region is finally getting a value-added distributor with a decent product portfolio capable of delivering complete solutions through resellers to customers. With a range of major vendors such as Cisco, HP, Oracle, Computer Associates, Microsoft and IBM already in the Tech Data Middle East fold, Azlan certainly has the potential to roar in the Middle East if Tech Data throws enough resources at its new regional business unit and makes sure that the staff on board have the necessary skills.

Cisco could be one vendor looking at the possibility of tweaking its distribution model in the wake of Azlan’s arrival. Tech Data has been a very successful volume distributor (CDP) for Cisco in the Middle East to date. Launching Azlan in this region immediately puts Tech Data up against some of Cisco’s value-added distributors (CADs) in the region.

When you bear in mind that the CADs have to buy from the CDPs because they do not have a direct purchasing relationship with Cisco, you start to see why some CADs might prefer an alternative source to Tech Data. After all, with Azlan on board in the region, Tech Data becomes a bit like a CDP and a CAD rolled into one.

True, the CADs in the Middle East could still purchase their Cisco kit from Logicom, but I get the distinct feeling that the networking giant could announce another major distribution partner for the Middle East with regional coverage very soon. Call it channel intuition if you will. Watch this space.

So what exactly does Azlan do? Good question. While it is pretty easy to bandy around channel buzz phrases such as value-add and sound pretty knowledgeable, it’s important to find out what they really mean. In Azlan’s case, we’re talking about a combination of its own specialist skills alongside those of Tech Data, meaning resellers can take advantage of pre and post-sales support, configuration services, account management and access to a powerful logistics, finance and marketing engine.

Boiling it down even further, it means that Tech Data is now capable of delivering solutions to resellers, rather than just a bunch of separate boxes and then leaving the channel to try and stitch it all together.

Launching Azlan in the Middle East is a brave move. Every distributor I meet appears to have a greater propensity for talking about the need to develop value-add as opposed to actually spending some money on developing the skills. My only concern for Azlan in the Middle East is its ability to reach outside the UAE and truly partner with the resellers looking to make the move down the value-add road.

Talking of changes in the Middle East distribution landscape, it seems that Sun is making the most of its newfound channel freedom as its exclusive agreement with Tech Access comes to an end. Tech Access is still on board and doing a sterling job according to all concerned. Nevertheless, initial reports filtering out of the Saudi Arabian channel suggest that Sun has recently signed up a major in-country distributor.

There is however still one question that needs to be answered: is Sun going to cuddle up to Azlan as well?

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