Welcome to the first entry in “The VAR View” series. As part of the Market Mantras Blog, we will begin a series of blog entries about how value-added resellers (VARs) can grow their business and profits with network convergence. This series will be dedicated to helping our partners get ready for the network convergence market and outline ways to merge IP and Fibre Channel for fun and profit. At the end of this blog, I have provided a sampling of titles for forthcoming blogs in this series.
Recently, the U.S. Congress allocated another $2 billion dollars for the “Cash for Clunkers” program and, since I love catch phases—typical marketing vice—I thought to myself, “Cash for Convergence”…what would that program look like? Let’s face it, market transitions are the best source of cash for the VAR community. That’s because, in the early phases of a market transition, it is VARs who invest and develop domain expertise and best practices. This provides the opportunity to build a profitable new practice: selling more consulting while developing sustainable professional services.
When I think about network convergence, I am reminded of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) transition. We had IP VARs on the right and telecom VARs on the left. For the most part, they were separate markets that did not overlap. VoIP brought these two markets together and created an entirely new class of VAR. VoIP VARs needed to know more than just the technical aspects of IP and telecom. They had to learn about selling IP-based telecom versus traditional phone systems; build new value positioning; overcome the technology adoption concerns; document the tangible return on investment (ROI) of the new VoIP solution; and call on new types of people in their accounts and understand the incredibly complex world of telecom billing services. In short, they worked hard for their money, but they created new value in their businesses with a differentiated, sustainable and profitable stream of hardware, software and services revenue.
I see the same opportunity for our VAR partners when I look at the network convergence market. This is not about replacing Fibre Channel pipes with 10GbE IP pipes. It is about building a business practice that is much more than merging networks to save on hardware. It will require a VAR to completely understand network management, security, business continuance, regulatory policies and many more items that are involved in the merged world of IP and Fibre Channel. As Billy Mays would say, “But that’s not all!”.The most challenging part will be the human factors. In the converged world, who owns the network now? Is it the applications administrator, because of virtualization? Is it the storage administrator because of the unique storage skills required? Or is it the networking administrator, because it is all based on 10GbE IP going forward? Or is it the security administrator? Also, who sets the policies for each part of the network? What are the best practices in the converged world? The list goes on and on.
When I look at the network convergence market opportunity, I see four key areas for VARs to add value:
- General Contractor – We have to merge the current network plumbing into the converged world without breaking the current infrastructure and provide a path forward based on the upgraded network convergence architecture.
- Group Therapist – Network convergence will force the administrative staff in many companies to go through the five phases of mourning before they reach acceptance of the new networking model. Sitting down with the various administrative staff to get them comfortable and accepting of the new networking model will probably be the most challenging part of the new business practice. They will need to be educated about providing the right tools, diagnostics and spheres of influence.
- Purveyor of Best Practices – When you have the administrative staff buy-in, then you have to provide the right policies, configuration settings and best practices to support service level agreements (SLAs), security, regulatory, business continuance and other operational rules of the road in the new network convergence model.
- Consigliore – As in “The Godfather,” every IT don needs a trusted consigliere to provide ongoing support, new equipment, services and support.
Building a new practice in network convergence will require some work, but the rewards should be a sustainable and profitable practice for our VAR partners across the globe. In future blog entries we will explore each of these topics in detail.
Additional Blog Topics for “The VAR View”:
- Steps to Building a Network Convergence Practice
- Shrinking the Admins – How to get “Group Think” about Network Convergence Administration
- Getting your Network Convergence General Contractors License
- Becoming the Professor of Professional Services in a Converged World
- Building the new Network Convergence Rack: What you need to Know
- Selling Network Convergence to the CIO…What He or She Needs to Know
- Best Practices for Converged Networking Management
- IP, iSCSI, FCoE
- VM configuration and support