Sun turns to partners for solutions delivery

Chris Cornelius, managing director at Sun Microsystems Middle East and North Africa reveals his plans for regional growth and the vital role that partners play in creating additional routes-to-market.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 30, 2006

|~|cco200.jpg|~|Chris Cornelius, managing director at Sun Microsystems Middle East and North Africa|~|Chris Cornelius, managing director at Sun Microsystems Middle East and North Africa reveals his plans for regional growth and the vital role that channel partners play in creating additional routes-to-market.

CME: Sun’s regional partner base continues to grow. What are the reasons behind this?

CHRIS CORNELIUS: There are more partners signed up with Sun now and we see this momentum continuing. What it signifies is that partners can see that Sun now has a compelling value proposition in the market. With the purchase of StorageTek we now have a full infrastructure offering whereas in the past we always had a gap in the storage arena. The integration of StorageTek is progressing well and we now have four major business practices: servers, storage, software and services. These practices are now being run at a corporate level whereas previously it was locally driven. We have opened the door for partners and they now understand the complete Sun vision.

CME: How strategic is the channel in realising your growth plans within the Middle East market?

CC: We now have a strong partner organisation in place and the channel can see that we mean business. We are looking at 40% year-on-year sales growth and that is not being achieved because we have more people and resources internally at Sun. We now have more partners on board and that makes me happy. Sun now has the strategy, the products and we are moving in the right direction and this translates to the channel wanting to partner us.

CME: Sun seems to be working more closely with alliance partners now. Is that a deliberate strategy?

CC: Yes, it helps change Sun itself from being seen as a boxmover to a solutions provider and that is what the customers now want. Sun will never provide the application layer — we focus on the hardware and software from an infrastructure perspective only and we will always need to work closely with ISV partners. Many of our channel partners are still focused on selling infrastructure and they don’t always have the right proposition for solution selling. It is important to have ISVs developing on Sun and running on Sun.

CME: Who leads the sale though? The delivery ecosystem still looks somewhat complicated at times?

CC: ISVs and alliance partners play an important role in the delivery of a complete solution. The sale is driven by partners in most cases. There is no way that Sun itself can reach all the potential customers in the market and that is why we have clearly moved towards the partners. We have also identified a select number of accounts where Sun has a joint engagement model alongside channel partners. We are also starting a partner development programme where our staff and partner staff will attend training camps together.

CME: Typically, large accounts still like the vendor to be involved. How do you deal with this?

CC: Yes, the large customers do value direct interaction with the vendor. We have one customer that orders direct from us in the region: Saudi Telecom. Not even Aramco, which has already spent US$40m with Sun this year, deals totally direct with us; there is still partner involvement. We have looked at all the accounts and said this is partner-driven and this is Sun-driven. We are always there to assist the partners and do joint planning if necessary.

CME: You’ve said that Sun has 10% of its total addressable market (TAM) in the region. How do you see this developing in future?

CC: Yes, we are currently picking up 10% of the TAM for Sun solutions. Sun actually has an internal benchmark of 12%. If we get to 12% then we are comfortable with the share of wallet. That means there is some way to go in this region, but we are confident we will make it to 12%.

CME: Sun is placing increased emphasis on services now. Who is best placed to deliver Sun services?

CC: It can be confusing to partners sometimes especially if they are unsure about how to deliver services. At the moment we do not allow partners to install Sun clusters and that is something we hope to change in terms of getting partners authorised and certified to deliver clusters. We have cluster projects just waiting for us to get round to them. We have a programme called independent delivery option (IDO) and that will involve taking very specific partners, accrediting them and letting them take on the installation of these mission critical systems. There are some partners out there that still only sell boxes and not services.
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