Banking on a rebound of midmarket IT spending, two of the biggest of the big IT vendors -- IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. -- unveiled new offerings tailored for VARs serving midmarket customers this week.
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It remains an open question, however, whether midmarket accounts (or even small businesses for that matter) are confident enough in an economic recovery to shake the flies out of their wallets when it comes to IT spending.
Opinion was mixed on this week's SearchITChannel.com channel advisory board call. Luke Wignall, principle with Denver-based Common Knowledge Technology LLC, said that midmarket companies that survived the recession are starting to buy. "They are going on the hunt. There's an opportunity wave there and I don't expect that to stop," Wignall said.
Midmarket IT spending: Rebound or dead cat bounce?
George Brown, president of Database Solutions Inc. in King of Prussia, Pa., however, fears that the uptick VARs see in midmarket IT spending may be a "dead cat bounce."
One council member said his company logged a profit in the past five weeks after 63 straight money-losing weeks -- certainly a hopeful sign.
Some other VARs are also cautiously optimistic.
Midmarket IT spending was stagnant for most of last year because of all of the economic uncertainties, said Romi Randhawa, CEO of HPM Networks, a Fremont, Calif.-based HP partner.
"We see them moving, but a bit slowly." he said. Hot-button midmarket IT spending areas are in infrastructure consolidation, virtualization and applications upgrades, Randhawa said.
HP's Meaghan Kelly, vice president of channel sales development and strategy for the company's Solution Partners Organization for the Americas, backed up that assertion, adding that the data center convergence push in the enterprise is spilling over into the midmarket.
"That data center play is becoming so obvious. The consolidation and virtualization benefits [are there so] even a midmarket company with 700 employees is looking to virtualize to solve heating and cooling issues," Kelly said.
As for the vendor bundles, HP launched Unified Communications and Collaboration bundles of HP server and storage hardware with Microsoft software products. HP defines "midmarket" as companies with 500 to 1,000 employees and small businesses as those with 1 to 499 employees.
For its part, IBM updated its midmarket System Storage and System X Express bundles. The IBM System Storage DS3500 Express system, due out June 15, has several connectivity options to tie into other legacy hardware a customer may have on site. That connectivity facilitates tiered storage implementations. The higher-end 3620 model takes on storage-intensive loads for companies handling a lot of video, images and design drawings, said Ron Kline, global director of marketing for general midsized businesses for IBM. (IBM's definition of midmarket is companies with 99 to 1,000 workers.)
Clay Hales, president of InfoSystems Inc., a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based IBM partner, said the Storage Express entry, in particular, is helpful because it gives him a lower-cost option to customers that might otherwise opt for Dell EqualLogic or HP LeftHand Networks storage.