Sun gives its ‘hardware centric’ iForce program an overhaul

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sun Microsystems has created a new partner program in a bid to broaden the way partners and customers view the company and its products.

Replacing the existing iForce program, Sun Partner Advantage (SPA) is a global program with a consistent channel framework across all geographies.

“iForce was very hardware-centric,” said Christian Primeau, vice-president of Partner Alliances at Sun Microsystems of Canada.

“The new program allows us to make sure we give partners the opportunity to put the right investment that makes sense for their business and develop a level of relationship with Sun based on what Sun technology they want to go to market with.”

The company announced the program at Access Distribution’s annual conference here, where it could take advantage of the large number of Sun VARs attending.

SPA will have four levels and according to Primeau, once the program is rolled out in Canada in October. “Sun will align the leveling based on the relationship we have with the partner, what and where they’ve sold and the volume of business they’re driving from Sun.”

Primeau said it is important to respect and secure the investment that was made by existing partners. So all of current partners, he added, will be grandfathered into this program with the same accreditation that they had in the old iForce program.

“For existing partners, its business as usual. New partners need to go through the proper level of accreditation,” he said.

Also with the SPA program, partners will be able to get certified in only one product line. “If a partner just wants to push our x64 product line, we’ll allow them to get certified only on products related to x64 and develop the accreditation and know-how around that product line,” said Primeau.

He added that one of the biggest opportunities for Canadian partners is Sun’s x64 offering. “Over the last six months, we grew this business in Canada by over 75 per cent,” he said. “It’s a very fast growing market.”

“We have really integrated the four S’s — systems, software, storage and services — in a way that allows resellers to be more flexible in where they want to invest in Sun,” said Bill Cate, director of Sun’s U.S. partner program.

One Canadian Sun partner is happy about the stronger emphasis the SPA program has on the channel.

Fred Dimson, vice-president of sales and professional services at KTI Kanatek Technologies in Mississauga, Ont., said he is already seeing a change in some of the accounts he deals with which in the past traditionally bought direct from Sun.

“They’re realizing that partners can bring some interesting value and I see that only improving over the next year,” said Dimson.

Kanatek has been carrying Sun’s storage and server product lines for the past 25 years but Dimson said the company has taken a more storage centric approach for the past six years.

“We are a good value-added partner already so we should only get better with that kind of a program.”

Dimson said Kanatek is still looking at the details of the new program to outline margin potential, but “it’s important that Sun dedicate more to the channel and keep us profitable from their product lines.”

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