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Sun attacks SMB market with new click-to-buy initiative

Sun Microsystems hopes to gain more share in the SMB market with new "click-to-buy" initiative.

Sun Microsystems hopes to entice more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with pretested and documented bundles of its servers, storage and software (Sun or third-party).

The SMB market initiative builds on Sun's existing Startup Essentials program, which focused on Web 2.0-type startups, but seeks to broaden the scope of the SMB target audience, said David Simmons, senior director of systems marketing at Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif.

That audience still includes Web services and Web 2.0 firms, but also other companies that have a dedicated IT staff and a dedicated LAN, manage more than a terabyte of data and expect their IT needs to grow, Simmons said.

Such companies tend to research technology acquisitions on the Web -- and Sun hopes they'll end up at its SMB site, where they will be able to buy pretested hardware-software combinations from Sun itself or from a Sun partner.

The solutions are centered on virtualization, email migration, data management, Web services and antispam. The data management offering can include databases from MySQL, now owned by Sun, or Oracle or Microsoft databases, which must be sourced elsewhere.

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The site's "click here to buy" button will take the prospect to a Sun direct sales person, a list of authorized Sun partners or a featured partner, the first of which is CDW Corp.

The choice of CDW as the inaugural featured partner did not go down well with some Sun partners who view the retailer as a competitor. CDW, mostly known as a mass market retailer entered the value-added channel fray when it bought Berbee Information Systems last year. Now many solution providers view CDW as as much a competitor as Dell, and its direct-sales focus.

Oracle partners, for example, have long griped that CDW discounts the software portion of a solution in order to win the hardware sale, something that software- and service-oriented partners are not able to match.

Rob Wolfe, CEO of AvcomEast Inc., a Vienna, Va.-based Sun partner, said he welcomes Sun's increased attention to the SMB market and that these bundles may comprise many components but still require a solution provider's expertise.

"These are among many solution sets that we and other good Sun partners architect and deliver to the midmarket, but they're not really commodity offerings. They still need the value-added, high-touch partners to deliver," Wolfe said.

Mike Shook, CEO of Consonus Technologies Inc. in Cary, N.C., agreed.

"I have a lot of respect for CDW, but CDW doesn't do what we do," Shook said. "The notion that you'll do server consolidation on-site, disaster recovery assessment -- that's not what CDW does. They sell volume commodity product to some markets, but in the SMB market I know, IT is not the core competency and they need someone to come in and help -- not provide commodity products."

What's important in solution sales is local talent and the ability to provide services, according to these Sun partners.

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