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News Roundup: Nortel partners beginning to stray?

More headlines: Avnet stumbles; Oracle layoffs hit channel operations; Cheaper paths to certification

Nortel partners wandering off?

Solution provider Shared Technologies, one of Nortel's largest enterprise channel partners, announced last week that it had signed on with Avaya. The announcement came just one week after Nortel filed for bankruptcy.

Shared Technologies will sell and service Avaya's unified communications systems and contact center solutions, according to the company. Shared Technologies already sells unified messaging and contact center technology from Nortel, as well as from Mitel and NEC. Shared Technologies has not pulled out of the Nortel channel. A number of Nortel partners have said they would stick with Nortel through the bankruptcy process but would build backup relationships with other vendors.

Nortel and Avaya have long battled for the top position in the unified communications and PBX markets. Recent research from the Dell'Oro Group ranked Nortel third in the unified communications and IP PBX markets, behind Cisco in second place and Avaya in the lead.

Meanwhile, a number of competing networking vendors have been aggressively courting Nortel partners. Last week, F5 Networks announced a trade-in plan for Nortel customers with Alteon application switches. The program includes trade-in credits toward replacement, and services to help with migration to F5's Big-IP Application Delivery Controllers. Even before Nortel filed bankruptcy, Juniper Networks was circling Nortel partners, sending a letter offering them incentives to join the Juniper channel. Other companies, including Cisco and AT&T, had also placed calls to a number of Nortel partners.

Oracle layoffs slash channel operations

If recent events at Oracle are a sign of what's to come in the networking market, layoffs at major vendors could slash channel management staff. This month, Oracle cut 500 to 800 jobs, many of which were in channel operations and OracleDirect, the company's telesales operation, reported last week. Oracle would not confirm the layoffs, but partners freely sounded off about missing faces among the channel staff, calling it a "bloodbath in the channel teams." Oracle has an employee headcount of more than 80,000.

Avnet stumbles out of Q2 with big losses and an executive scramble

Avnet bounced former global president of technology solutions John Paget just two days before announcing a 21% decline in earnings resulting from weak demand. Avnet's Technology Solutions group took the hardest hit among the units, with sales of $2 billion, down 12%. The Electronics Marketing group saw $2.27 billion in sales, down about 5.6%. Avnet chairman and CEO Roy Vallee predicted that earnings would remain flat in the coming quarter. "Based on these results and our expectation of continued market weakness over the next few quarters, we have initiated additional cost reductions of $50 million in annualized savings," Vallee said. Paget's departure was a result of missed numbers, Avnet said. The company replaced Paget with 26-year Avnet veteran Philip Gallagher, who currently serves as president of Electronics Marketing, Americas. Paget spent two years with the company.

SonicWALL casts wider SMB channel net with D&H Distributing

SonicWALL has entered into a distributing agreement with D&H Distributing, giving the company a larger channel reach with a focus on the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market. SonicWALL recently juiced up its Medallion Partner Program, providing solution providers with deal registration, program tiers, sales incentives, a partner locator, and discounted training. D&H partners will sell the network security suite for SMBs, including secure remote access, content and email security, and backup and recovery solutions.

Networking certs too expensive? Seek cheaper alternatives

Though certification can be expensive, networking professionals shouldn't forgo seeking more training. Instead, they should focus on what's necessary and seek less expensive alternatives, reported last week. In an economic downturn, companies slash funding for certifications, and self-starters are reluctant to shell out the cash for classes. But research firm IDC says there will be a 60,000-person gap in labor needs in specialized fields like security, voice and wireless. So preparing now is important. One cheaper alternative is looking for certification classes at community colleges.

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