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The best channel stories of the year

2007 was the year product turned into service and service turned into Web service, but the channel still found a way to keep growing.

Migration and adaptation were the big stories in the channel this year, as traditional integrators, resellers and solution providers moved into managed services, Software as a Service (SaaS) and even reselling and integrating other people's services into solutions.

Before 2007 even started, it was clear this would be the beginning of a major conversion in the business models of the channel. Customers increasingly demanded the ability to buy monitoring and maintenance services on subscription, and the idea of "buying" software the same way was gaining momentum.

A few vendors even risked the wrath of their channel partners by claiming VARs could make a good living selling only the contracts and relying on the vendor to host and maintain the software. That, many analysts predicted, could leave value-added resellers (VARs) with much less value to add.

Not so, VARs told SearchITChannel. There's always a need for solution providers, VAR after VAR told us. There's always a role customers want their VAR to play, though few VARs could articulate that role at the time.

But they were right. Rather than getting mired in chaos and upheaval, the channel just flowed along, absorbing the shift toward a services economy pretty smoothly.

No. 10: Suite-ification of security products

Normally channel companies are unhappy when vendors pile a ton of new features into an existing product or sink a handful of products (and potentially dozens of salable SKUs) into the same integrated suite. Security VARs facing exactly that situation, however, said the suites are easier to sell, easier to configure and still leave plenty of services, configuration and implementation work for them to do. Security vendors stay in full-courting mode to keep partners from toddling over to someone else's suite.

Symantec integrates antivirus, endpoint protection and data leak prevention
Security integration could mean sales opportunities for VARs
Information security management battle pits Symantec, McAfee
Symantec hopes new initiatives will bode well for partners
IBM, Symantec join drive toward packaging compliance
Integrated security demand drives security market consolidation
Security convergence is changing the sales channel
Symantec aims at SMBs with simpler product packaging, focused VAR support
How to sell endpoint security; and how to make a living at it

No. 9: Enterprise apps get small, cheap and channel-ized

Once upon a time even thinking about ERP or CRM took a million dollars and two years for development. That approach doesn't work when you're trying to sell to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but it's a lot easier to make a box easy to install than a multi-module enterprise application framework. Or is it?

SAP, Oracle challenged by smaller ERP vendors
Despite turmoil, CRM leaders maintain position
SAP A1S to change how SAP partners deal with SMBs
Oracle launches partner program for SMB package
CRM implementation for one SMB becomes an extensible line of business
Microsoft preps three ways to sell CRM
Oracle Accelerate speeds ERP software solution strategy, VARs say
SAP partners say Business ByDesign has service opportunities
SAP closes door to Business ByDesign services, hosting -- for now
Microsoft Dynamics CRM price cut helps partners in CRM market

No. 8: A VAR's best friend is another VAR

Channel companies have been hooking up on complex deals for years. One lands a deal that involves an application it can't develop or a network it can't build, so it calls in another VAR in the same geographic area but a different technology market. In 2007 the practice turned into a discipline, as vendors launched formal programs to help VARs find partners the way online dating service customers find them -- at a distance, with a lot of trepidation and occasionally a really good outcome.

VAR-to-VAR channel partnerships offer risks and rewards
VAR-VAR partnerships: Trust isn't enough
MSPs: Microsoft online services are no threat to partners
Partner with mixed-stack solution providers
Good service-level agreements make good customers
Cisco prepares set of tools to enhance vendor/VAR collaborative service sales
Five steps to IT marketing success

No. 7: Dell is a channel company. No it's not. Yes it is.

Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic -- so the story goes -- compelled it to rationalize its ad hoc channel business and offer a formal support program. Actually Dell's been bringing in billions through the channel, and the latest switch let it admit that without dropping the sell-direct policy that has made it one of the most hated names in the channel.

Dell's (not-so) secret channel strategy
Dell's EqualLogic acquisition won't hurt partners, execs say
Blade server channel opportunities: HP, IBM, Dell?
EMC partners mull Dell's iSCSI strategy following EqualLogic buyout
Dell launches partner program, will continue factory integration model
Dell partners: Program shows promise

No. 6: The rush to the SMB

There are thousands of enterprise-class customers out there, but there are tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of potential small and medium-sized customers as well -- and it's the SMBs that are more likely to buy through the channel. So when it seemed like every IT vendor was racing to be the next to adapt its enterprise products and start selling to the SMB (often because the enterprise market was already saturated), it could only help the channel.

SAP, Oracle may strive in vain for SMBs seeking smaller, more vertical apps
HP partner program helps VARs expand into SMB market
Oracle set to announce SMB versions of core apps; benefits for the channel
Hitachi Data Systems announces new storage options for SMBs
Web-based data storage service providers: Are SMBs ready for you?
Cisco SMB partner drive will bypass all but smallest resellers
Clustered storage is changing SMB channel conversations
Storage virtualization technology for the SMB
VARs see SMB opportunities with IBM's new storage products
Novell steers partners toward SMB market -- not all are thrilled

No. 5: The rush back to the midmarket

There may indeed be a lot of SMBs out there, but most of them don't have that much money to spend, or any need for complex IT systems. So vendors headed back upstream, away from what they called the "S of SMB," and toward the medium-sized enterprise. VARs, who knew the difference between small and small, gladly took the simplified product lines and went off to sell high-end IT functionality to midsized customers.

As the SMB market becomes more crowded, VARs offer tips on selling to them
Storage resellers beware the SMB market
The rise of midmarket security
EMC storage resellers losing midmarket to NetApp, iSCSI storage
EMC NAS/SAN gear to match NetApp in midmarket
Dell/EMC midmarket storage strategy may cause channel conflict
CA to reduce channel conflict in battle to increase storage revenue
IBM brings tape library to midsized businesses
Arrow targets medium-sized businesses, vertical markets
IBM tries to reenergize storage with host of midmarket products

No. 4: Communications get unified -- amidst all the fighting

Putting voice traffic over IP networks isn't enough; in 2007, we had to put voicemail, email and every other form of communication together into one integrated package. Unified communications promised convenience to end users and riches to network vendors -- who immediately went to war over the brand-new market. Microsoft and Cisco got into such a tussle that their CEOs were compelled to go on stage together with nothing to hype or announce except that their companies would remain great friends and all their products would continue to work together. The rest of the market -- including the channel -- just sighed and got on with adapting the technology even to customers without 5,000 VoIP seats to convert.

Microsoft/Cisco VoIP deal presages "bloody" battle for network turf
Microsoft, IBM prepare for unified communications market growth
Enterprises still face UC learning curve
Cisco chief predicts a connected universe, with Cisco at its heart
VARs to Microsoft: Welcome to the VoIP market; you're missing the point
Unified communications and SMBs: It's a matter of trust
Microsoft, Cisco VoIP services/UC face-off may not live up to hype
IP telephone vendor ratings down, and complexity is the culprit

No. 3: VoIP (at risk) everywhere

What started out as a way for geeks to save money making calls over the Internet turned into a transformative trend in telecommunications. In 2007, VoIP took over the market so completely that it stopped being the hot new thing customers wanted to buy and started being the hot new target for hackers looking for vulnerable technology.

How to sell VoIP
Selling VoIP network readiness projects
How to provide VoIP services and generate new leads
How to build VoIP services
PBX to VoIP strategies -- The WAN factor
Attacks on VoIP to increase
SMBs need to upgrade, but don't trust VoIP security
VoIP deals depend on answering VoIP security concerns
VoIP network security offers new challenges for resellers
Security weaknesses of VoIP protocols

No. 2: Managed services change economics of channel

Before online software became the defining characteristic of the software sales channel, there were managed services and the providers who, uh, provided them. Whether monitoring networks, storing data or securing the perimeter, managed services are more involved and demanding than hosting an application users can access through a Web browser, but it's still a lot less trouble than having to go out to a customer's site every time something goes wrong.

The managed service provider (MSP) model
How to price managed service provider (MSP) offerings
Becoming a managed service provider (MSP): Essential questions to ask first
To be an MSP, forget 'selling managed services,' and sell yourself
Top five systems service provider tips of 2007
Managed service providers change channel pay scale
After-sales service defines success for managed service providers
Spotting the next wave of managed services
Service providers expand into new market -- other service providers
IBM to sell managed security to SMBs -- through the channel

No. 1: The growing SaaS market

When it first cropped up, Software as a Service (SaaS) seemed like a much more direct threat to the channel than managed services, which was really just a refinement of existing outsourcing and support businesses. SaaS, though, promised to give customers access to sophisticated IT services without the intervention of anyone but the application host. started out threatening SAP AG and other vendors whose software had to be installed at a customer's site, and ended up giving VARs a way to sell sophisticated applications without the cost of ramping up an internal specialty practice. You're a network integrator building a Voice over IP network for a customer who, coincidentally, also wants a customer relationship management (CRM) system? Sell them a contract for Microsoft Dynamic Live, let Microsoft host and maintain the app and keep a slice of the profit for yourself -- without having to learn CRM first.

Software as a Service market opportunities abound
Software as a Service (SaaS) Prep Guide
Symantec SaaS push will force channel to change
SaaS may change business for Microsoft CRM resellers
Open source CRM software meets Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM
SAP releases customer service module for Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM
Microsoft could legitimize security SaaS market
SaaS market leaves VARs searching for their niche
Checklist: Software as a Service revenue opportunities
Microsoft solution providers question SaaS margins
Supporting Software as a Service: What VARs need to know

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