Station masters

The place of the workstation in the Middle East IT market has always been out of the limelight, as if a distant cousin to the more mainstream desktop PC. Despite this, workstations are still a major product focus for several key vendors, especially with constant demand fuelled by regional expansion in infrastructure and the visual industries.

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By  Julian Pletts Published  January 7, 2008

Sun's Ayass says the training that it provides to resellers can also then be passed on as a value-add. "You will be surprised. Resellers' margins rise to between 50% and 80% when they are adding service to their sales, as opposed to a box-mover where margins can vary from 5% or 10%, to 15%, if they are lucky.

The good news from the workstation reseller's perspective is that they are in a sellers market when it comes to value-added services. It is the reseller that brings together the package or specification that normally includes the workstation, the software, possibly a thin client or even a server and perhaps any virtualisation options they may choose. As commentators are keen to point out, workstation systems are highly modified and targeted to answer the specific needs of the end-user so it is the reseller that is best placed to liaise with all the vendors concerned, from manufacturers to ISVs, to ensure solutions are set up and continue running without problems for long periods.

HP's Bergeron says that the value-add is just as important, if not more so, than the hardware sale. "They have to be a full-scale operation from pre-sales upwards and show an ability to discuss an industry vertical in great depth," he said. "Secondly, they will have made an investment in terms of hardware so they can give some demo units to the customer to help them try out the products. And the third thing that we look for in a reseller partner is the support element because it is so critical for an engineer's or designer's work that resellers are able to offer quick and efficient support.

If you are a reseller that gives the virtualisation threat any kudos then you would do well to ensure your market plan and channel relationships include a strategy that gives customers virtualisation options. "Our workstation resellers are still focused on workstations," asserted Sun's Ayass. He advises that they do not need to switch to virtualisation, but says that they need to be aware of the trend so that when it does become mature enough to start cannibalising their sales they can take advantage of it.

The workstation market in the Middle East certainly remains a niche market. But it is also a prosperous one that continues to keep pace with global growth trends. The last set of quarterly data on the workstation market from US-based Jon Peddie Research revealed worldwide shipments grew 17% year-on-year to 718,000 units, driving the value of the market up to US$1.7 billion.

The Middle East workstation channel remains niche, but only in the sense of how it varies from the mainstream PC market and calls for highly specific skills. It is certainly a large market in which resellers can look to procure impressive margins by ensuring their toolbox is laden with value-added skills.

If resellers can tailor their approach to each end-user, implicitly understanding their business and workstation requirements, there is no reason why the high-performance computing market cannot be a hugely profitable arena for many channel players.

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