Channel Charmer

Sun Microsystems latest partner sales corner in Lebanon witnessed a significant increase in turnout as resellers and integrators from across the region flocked to Beirut to find out more about the new channel programme, which the vendor hopes will allow it to accelerate its sales across the Middle East and North Africa region even further.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 1, 2006

Partner-centric|~|suncc200.jpg|~|Chris Cornelius, managing director at Sun MENA|~|It was certainly a case of fun in the sun for the resellers that attended Sun Microsystem’s partner sales corner in Beirut. But away from the belly dancers, fancy dress outfits and gala awards dinner, there was also a serious side to the event, as the vendor revealed details of its new partner programme. Graham Porter, marketing director at Sun Microsystems MENA set the scene for an action-packed two days of channel bonding during the opening session of the event. “The good news is that I’m not presenting this year,” declared Porter to the assembled partners. “Last time, we had 110 people at the partner sales corner in the Maldives and that is when we used the Sun Fund to pay for your travel. For this event 184 people have registered despite the fact that you paid your own travel expenses.” “Partners are vital to Sun,” added Porter. “We continue to innovate but we cannot reach any of our objectives without you — especially in this region. You are vital to Sun and our success and we realise that we need to work even better with you.” After Sun’s recent acquisition spree, the vendor’s executives wasted no time getting the partners up to speed with the breadth of the product portfolio on offer, pointing out that Sun was now in a position to supply a complete infrastructure solution as it pursued its mission of getting everyone and everything connected to the network. “Our goals are clear,” added Chris Cornelius, managing director at Sun MENA. “We want to grow our business, improve the customer experience, leverage our partners and simplify our business. I see some unhappiness out there when I go to customers because they do not see enough of Sun. We need to service them and add value — not just sell them boxes.” Sun’s commitment to the Middle East channel is growing day-by-day. The vendor has appointed Peter Kwisthout to manage relationships with alliance vendors in the region for starters. Simultaneously, the vendor has created a strong partner and alliance sales organisation (PASO) team headed up in the region by Bruno Haubertin. “We are committed to a partner-centric model in the region,” declared Cornelius. “We will never have enough arms and legs internally to address all the opportunities in the market and that is why we need the channel and also work with partners such as Tech Access on channel development.”||**||Driving alliances|~|sunbh200.jpg|~|Bruno Haubertin, PASO manager at Sun in MENA|~|Sun has dedicated significant resources in recent months to reviewing its relationships with its existing channel. This has included a partner review board that has looked closely at hundreds of partners in the region to assess their skills and business strengths and work out the best way for Sun to engage with them. “In some cases, these partners didn’t know us and we didn’t know them,” said Cornelius. “Now we are looking at joint planning engagement with our channel partners. We work directly with some partners on this while others in the region are served indirectly through Tech Access.” Partner development lies at the core of Sun’s regional strategy for fiscal 2007. “We expect the channel to drive forward with its own solutions and we also want to engage with ISVs in the region so that they can deliver applications to customers on Sun platforms. It is important for the channel to adopt Sun’s new partner advantage programme and make sure that they use it to its full potential,” continued Cornelius. While the first stage of Sun’s new partner advantage programme was unveiled in late 2005 for the ISV community, the vendor is now gearing up for a full-on launch that will revolutionise its interaction with the partner network. Bruno Haubertin, PASO manager at Sun in MENA, told the crowd: “Since the last event we have worked with the channel to ensure better than ever geographic and product coverage in the region. Now we are moving towards a comprehensive partner development and training programme where product pricing is based on a partner’s commitment, skills and investment in Sun.” According to Haubertin, more than 30 local ISVs across MENA have already signed up to participate in the ISV track of the partner advantage programme since its launch. As well as boosting its interaction with local ISVs, Sun is also committed to re-energising its relationships in the Middle East with its top tier of global alliance partners. “We are working hard with strategic software vendors such as CA. At the same time, key technology suppliers such as AMD are also working closely with Sun on numerous joint ventures,” added Haubertin. “We know that a server should never be sold as just a server — it should always be sold as part of a software solution.” Sun has boosted its distribution reach across the Middle East in recent months as well. While Tech Access continues to play a pivotal channel development role, Sun has supplemented its channel engagement strategy, appointing Al Jammaz as a volume distributor in Saudi Arabia and striking a software distribution deal with Aptec covering the Gulf and Egypt. Simultaneously, it has cosied up to key regional partners in specific product areas such as STME in the storage space.||**||Target markets|~|sunpoint200.jpg|~|Sun resellers were shown exactly where to find margin opportunities|~|Sun’s efforts to create a clearer channel engagement model are undoubtedly appreciated by the partner community and represent the first step on the road to closer cooperation with the channel and the development of a solutions-led sales approach. Geographically, Sun has also identified four key markets in the MENA region where it plans to ramp up its visibility in the months ahead. “There are four key geographies,” explained Haubertin. “Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya and Algeria all stand out as prime opportunities. We know that we need enhanced channel breadth in these countries. For example, in Pakistan we only had two partners and now we have four. We know that we need to increase this even further and engage with more ISVs in Pakistan because of the strength of the software development sector in that country. To do this, we may have to engage more distributors from a volume and software perspective. In Pakistan alone, the total addressable market for Sun products is US$120m a year.” Haubertin reckons that Sun is capable of achieving an extra US$50m sales per year in Saudi Arabia and will be working closely with Tech Access to achieve that ambitious goal — especially since the distributor opened an office in the Kingdom. “Libya is completely untapped at the moment,” added Haubertin. “This market has now opened up and you are talking about a US$500m investment in ERP systems by the local companies happening. Oracle has made significant inroads into the market and that is something we believe we can piggyback on.” For Sun, working out which business opportunities to chase after first is probably the biggest headache in the MENA region. With a relatively small team covering such a vast geographic area, the role of the channel is critical to Sun’s success. With a new partner programme and an expanded distribution set-up, Sun now needs to build on these foundations and increase its channel breadth to address more of the opportunities that exist in the market. Given the vendor’s expansive product portfolio, Sun has the potential to engage with all types of resellers from proximity dealers to enterprise systems integrators. Don’t bet against 300-plus attendees at the next Sun sales corner.||**||

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