KEYSTONE, Colo. — Despite a soft IT market, there are pockets of opportunities for VARs to plug into including wireless, consolidation and security, said Anna McDermott, GE Access newly named president and CEO.

Speaking at the annual New Frontiers event — which has attracted about 1,000

partners, solution providers and vendors — McDermott said other hot markets for resellers include e-mail archiving and compliance with government regulation.

GE recently unveiled a government practice, which will identify best practices and programs for government accounts, and help VARs with the complex sales cycle involved in selling to federal, state and local levels of government.

But while the government practice is expected to be a hot area for U.S. resellers, it’s not targeted towards the Canadian market yet, said William Sumners, vice-president of enterprise solutions and Livermore Logistics Centre.

Indeed, a key area for resellers both in the U.S. and north of the border is in the services arena, said IDC analyst Janet Waxman. In contrast to reselling solutions, the services market will take a little longer to flesh itself out, and will take VARs more time to get a handle on, she said.

“Services is a very different model than the resell model — it takes time to grow.”

The trick is to understand the value of selling solutions instead of product, she added.

As such, GE announced at the show a channel services group, which supports resellers peddling Sun Microsystems, storage, security and networking solutions.

Under the program, resellers get access to a host of services including experts in sales, contract management, marketing and financing (including leasing options, which are very popular with resellers, said John Paget, senior vice-president and general manager of GE’s first-ever IT vertical, the GE Technology Financial Services.

“To succeed we have to be willing to plug into new opportunities,” McDermott added, highlighting the fact that resellers need to help CFO’s better understand the business value of their technology solutions and how to achieve a better return on investment (ROI).

The idea is to no longer compete on price, but to offer customers real business value on processes and to help CIO’s build a business case, she said.

“ROI is the mantra of the new millennium, but what exactly is it? How do we achieve it?” If you want to close big deals, forget about competing on price — you have to show your overall plan.”

Indeed, helping partners succeed is the way to ensure vendor profitability, said McDermott. “Whatever the next technology boom (whether it’s wireless or utility computing) we risk missing the boat if we don’t plug into new partnerships, technologies, markets and opportunities.”

And while competitors like IBM have similar offerings in terms of its technology solutions, financing, services and consulting realm, GE is a step ahead because of its commitment to the channel, said McDermott. The similarity (with IBM) is there . . . but the channel offers something IBM doesn’t — and that’s you.

“When we tap into partnerships, no one can beat us . . . not IBM, not HP and not the grey market.”

Additional market opportunities for resellers include the SMB space — a key focus area for Canadian VARs, said Gary Grimes, Sun Microsystems’ vice-president of partner management and sales operations.

Like Oracle, Sun is moving its high-end technology down to the mid-market space at lower prices, Grimes said. Bill Cates, director of Sun’s iForce program, agrees, explaining over the last 18 months the company has unveiled 20 new entry level servers below US$10,000.

Pat Martin, president and CEO of StorageTek, said VARs should look to the storage resource management space for market opportunities. “As spending moves from hardware to software and services, the market is shifting to storage management.”

At the show, StorageTek announced its expanded services program, which helps VARs analyze, design and build the right data storage solutions for their customers.

Information lifecycle management is an answer to increased management costs and system complexity, Martin added.

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