A channel partner is a person or organization that provides services or sells products on behalf of a software or hardware vendor. Value-added resellers (VARs), managed service provider (MSPss), consultants, systems integrators (SIs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and distributors may all be called channel partners. Many companies, including CA, Microsoft, AMD, IBM, SAP and Oracle, have formed channel partnership programs to work more closely with the distributors for their products.
Channel partnerships provide an opportunity for companies to promote certain products or services. In return, channel partners receive access to product and marketing training, discounts, technical support, lead generation tools and beta versions of releases. A VAR that chooses to partner with a vendor may lose a certain degree of independence with respect to other vendors in the same market. As a result, these relationships make sense only when the increased access and support result in greater revenue for the channel partner. Several vendors have created online forums, discussion groups and social networking sites to encourage and support channel partnerships.
VAR to VAR partnerships differ from channel partnerships in the purpose of the relationship. Channel partners work together to distribute and implement a vendor's products. In a VAR to VAR relationship, the companies cooperate to obtain professional services and solutions that would not have been accessible to them otherwise. Each VAR to VAR partner must offer something to the other, such as complementary services or areas of expertise, or a presence in different geographical regions.