The Top 30 Channel Contenders of 20094:00 PM EST Fri. Jul. 31, 2009
Which vendors are challenging the entrenched market leaders and are poised to become tomorrow's best sellers? Well, hundreds of technology sellers answered an extensive survey of which brands they consider the top alternatives in 14 technology categories, providing insight into which vendors are best positioned during the economic downturn and beyond. Here are the top two vendors from each of the categories, as selected by solution providers in the 2009 Channel Contenders survey.
It isn't easy to go up against the San Jose big dog, aka Cisco Systems, but a handful of data networking vendors are seen as true contenders for a bigger slice of the networking pie, according to findings in the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
More VARs surveyed said D-Link is the strongest contender against the incumbent Cisco than any other vendor. In the past year, D-Link has been busy rounding out its SMB router and switch offerings, including the all-in-one DIR-685, which features an SMB Wi-Fi router with integrated Network Attached Storage (NAS) and wraps in the personal flare of a digital picture frame. While Cisco has the enterprise market locked down, D-Link is the one to beat in the SMB space, an area where Cisco is pushing hard to be a true player.
Linksys isn't so much a contender against Cisco as it is a friend. Since Cisco owns the brand and recently phased out Linksys' SMB solutions in favor of Cisco SMB-branded gear, Linksys has been a consumer-only brand. So, Cisco doesn't really need to watch its back on this one. But Linksys' inclusion among the list of alternatives shows the dominance of both Linksys and its parent.
It's no surprise that Cisco Systems came out on top as the leading vendor for solution providers when it comes to VoIP. But there is a host of challengers nipping at Cisco's heels, according to findings in the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
Cisco Systems isn't happy with just the No. 1 spot -- it also needs to be No. 2. Cisco's Linksys arm, which used to focus on SMB and consumer markets and now is just a consumer brand, was selected as the strongest challenger to, well, Cisco when it comes to VoIP. Linksys offers affordable solutions for smaller deployments, where its parent targets larger enterprises with more sophisticated needs.
Solution providers polled consider Nortel Networks a Channel Contender for its incumbent VoIP offering. It's no surprise. Nortel built its name on legacy TDM and grew into VoIP and unified communications at just the right time. While Nortel's future in VoIP may be uncertain as it navigates Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it still has the chops in the VoIP arena to keep plugging along as Nortel TDM customers look to upgrade to the VoIP world. As of this writing, Nortel was looking to auction off its enterprise solutions business, which includes its VoIP solutions, and Avaya is the lead bidder with an offer of $475 million.
Solution providers chose Linksys and Cisco Systems as their top leading vendors in the wireless networking space, but there are plenty of alternatives for VARs to consider as well, according to findings in the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
It's not easy living in the shadow of more entrenched competitors, but D-Link is taking a creative approach to the challenge. At CES, D-Link unveiled its DIR-685 router, which mixes the features of an SMB Wi-Fi router with the convenience of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, and adds the personal touch of a photo frame. This broad feature set grabbed conference attendees' attention and looks like a good model for future products.
Netgear has been working to cement its place in the SMB market, broadening its solution set to target the evolving needs of smaller companies. As part of this effort, Netgear recently rolled out two new ProSafe Advanced Gigabit Smart Switches, the GS724TPS and GS748TPS, in an effort to make it easier for SMBs to migrate to converged networks with VoIP, data and wireless.
Cisco Systems enjoys market-leading status in the security hardware space, but there's a slew of other companies aiming to grab share with solution providers too.
At one time Netgear was largely known for its network offerings, but has since emerged in the security space with a line of offerings -- its ProSecure UTM appliances -- that offers a strong focus on affordable security for SMBs. Meanwhile, Netgear continues to beef up its channel presence with hybrid appliance/subscription solutions for SMBs after it launched its ProSecure Security Threat Management Series earlier this year.
Among its array of laptops, desktops and printers, the hardware giant is edging into the security space with offerings that stand on their own merits. What does it offer that its competitors can't? HP contends that security should be inherently baked into its hardware products, not bolted on as an attachment. Meanwhile, the hardware company features an array of Web application security offerings -- most recently it launched a Web security tool to detect vulnerabilities in Flash applications.
Symantec owns the security software space, but a slew of competitors are vying to gain share away from the market leader, according to the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
Trend Micro sailed above competitors, emerging as the leading contender. Over the last 12 months, Trend Micro has fortified its security software portfolio with a vast array of cloud-based endpoint security offerings for all market segments, powered by their SmartProtection Network. Additionally, in April, the Tokyo-based company launched a new partner program specifically for MSSPs, further allowing their partners to take the lead in the managed services space.
Software giant Microsoft attributes its rise in the security software space to a philosophy that promotes comprehensive integrated security, as opposed to security that is "bolted on" separately. That philosophy manifested in recent launches of its hosted e-mail security service Forefront Online Security for Exchange. Meanwhile, the company is giving antivirus competitors a run for their money with the recent launch of its free Microsoft Security Essentials antimalware download.
With Hewlett-Packard named by VARs as the leading vendor in network storage, that leaves a slew of competitors to vie for solution providers' hearts, according to the 2009 Channel Contenders study.
IBM's position as the top contender for network storage against HP stems mainly from both companies' leading positions in server sales. HP solution providers are more likely to sell HP storage with HP servers, while IBM solution providers are more likely to sell IBM storage with IBM servers. In addition, IBM has a complete line of network storage products as well as a huge base of channel partners, both of which contribute to its success in the storage channel.
EMC's success as a top contender for network storage results from its embracing the channel with one of the industry's best channel programs. It also helps that EMC is by many measures the largest storage-focused vendor. EMC also has endeared itself to, or at least pushed itself on, small businesses thanks to strategic acquisitions such as that of Iomega.
Solution providers said better product performance and better support were the top two reasons they choose an alternative vendor, in preference to leader Symantec/Veritas, in the data protection software space.
CA enjoys the title of top Channel Contender in the data protection software market because it, like leading vendor Symantec/Veritas, is a major software vendor not tied to any specific hardware offerings. While VARs have said CA's channel programs have been inconsistent over time, the company has recently focused more on long-term benefits. CA's data protection software, especially ARCserve, has consistently been a favorite of solution providers.
Hewlett-Packard is a strong data protection software Channel Contender because of how closely that software is tied to sales of HP's server and storage hardware. HP solution providers say the company's Data Protector software is a solid offering despite being somewhat less sophisticated than software from vendors such as Symantec and CommVault. HP's acquisition last year of LeftHand gave it software that can be used to create virtual storage appliances.
VARs picked Western Digital and Seagate/Maxtor as the leaders in the external storage device world, but there's a host of other companies vying for market share as well, according to the 2009 Channel Contenders study.
When Iomega was acquired by storage behemoth EMC in April 2008, the company's popular SMB/SOHO storage hardware was combined with EMC's also recently acquired Mozy online storage technology to help reinvent EMC as a channel-friendly option for small business storage. Specific to portable hard drives, Iomega recently unveiled its Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive for Mac users, not long after updating the eGo line overall with new look, ruggedized USB 2.0-powered models.
For SanDisk, the news in external storage always seems to be about smaller, faster, better or some combination of those qualities. One of SanDisk's big splash products this spring was the SanDisk Ultra Backup, which, according to the company, is the world's first USB flash drive with push-button backup. In late June, SanDisk introduced the Extreme SDHC card, which it says is the fastest 32-GB SDHC card on the market today.
Solution providers weighed in and it's clear that Hewlett-Packard dominates the laptop and mobile computing space. HP competitor Dell ranks a respectable second in the category, but other notebook makers are all clearly chasing these two vendors, according to the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
Toshiba's Tecra A10 notebook delivers desktop computing power on a 15.4-inch notebook. The Tecra is designed for business installations and comes preloaded with Windows Vista Business Edition. Powerful Intel processors power the business line of Toshiba notebooks, and while they can be on the expensive side, the notebooks deliver business-class performance and reliability.
Acer is using Dell's own strategy against it. The vendor is stripping as much price as it can out of the cost of its notebooks. In addition to driving costs down, Acer consistently adopts the latest technology, like netbooks for example, and innovates in the space. The vendor's 11.6-inch netbook was one of the first in the market to expand on the 10.1-inch form factor that had become standard in ultra mobile notebooks.
Almost two-thirds of solution providers chose Hewlett-Packard or IBM as their primary server vendor in CRN's 2009 Channel Contenders study, but solution providers are also looking for alternative vendors for better price and product performance.
The smart money says that Dell's status as the top fallback offering for server resellers leading with the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM has nowhere to go but up. The Round Rock, Texas-based company is already considered one of the Big Four server makers along with HP, IBM and Sun -- and the latter pair's hardware businesses have had challenges. What's more, Dell's newfound commitment to the channel is still in its early stages, so expect more VARs to start leading with Dell products in the coming months.
Sun Microsystems is still a major player in servers, both in the channel and in the IT industry writ large. But Oracle's proposed acquisition of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun makes it tough to predict what the company's server business and channel relationships will look like in the future. Sun's tardiness with Intel Nehalem servers compared to other Tier 1s did not go unnoticed, and Cisco's surprise entry into the segment also puts pressure on Sun.
ViewSonic is tops when it comes to the display/monitor (under 30-inches) category, but there are a bevy of rivals vying for the No. 1 spot. Check out these companies that were singled out by solution providers as alternatives to the market leader, according to criteria set by the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
Samsung consistently hits the high notes, coming out with increasingly sophisticated products. High-resolution, sleeker designs and low power consumption has become the company's mantra. In addition to its SyncMaster line, the Touch of Color series has also proved popular and has recently gotten thinner -- new models have a screen depth ratio of just 1.18- to 2.58-inches thick.
When it comes to display monitors, HP isn't the first name that comes to mind, especially considering its diverse market segments. However, HP's 24-inch flat panel computer monitor LP2475W in particular garnered rave reviews, as much for its features and its $560 price tag.
NEC has hit the market with both high-end products and more practical, lower-priced green, ergonomic models. NEC's 22-inch MultiSync E222W LCD pivoting, portrait-enabled monitor, listed for $199- $219, includes "ECO Mode," a carbon footprint meter.
HP is the king of the laser printer category, but there are a number of well-known challengers offering inexpensive, feature-rich products that solution providers are looking for, as well, according to findings from the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey. The Channel Contenders research sought to identify the top vendors that solution providers choose as alternatives to market leaders.
Ricoh has introduced a slew of new printers this year, including the Aficio SP C222SF Series. These MFPs reduce paper use and supply costs through features such as automatic duplex printing. The company just launched its managed print services program, which helps resellers provide customers with ongoing assessments, solution advice, and on- and off-site fleet management.
Oki Data is also on the forefront of the MFP line. In March, the company rolled out its CX2640, CX1145 and CX2033 color MFPs in response to the expected growth in the A3 and A4 color MFP markets. In July, Oki also unveiled a comprehensive managed print services program, Total Managed Print, a three-tiered program aimed at resellers, particularly those uneasy about entering the MPS arena.
The company's name is synonymous with printing and has stayed in the forefront of the market with solid products for solution providers. Earlier this year, Xerox launched its new line of solid-ink multifunction printers, the ColorQube 9200 MFP series (9201/9202/9203), which the company promises will lower the cost of printing color pages by as much as 62 percent, and at the same time, reduce supply waste by 90 percent.
When you think virtualization, you likely think of VMware. But there are plenty of other server virtualization options available to solution providers, according to the 2009 CRN Channel Contenders survey.
Microsoft comes in strong as a Channel Contender for server virtualization because of the inclusion of its Hyper-V hypervisor as a component of its Windows operating system, which is included on most servers. Microsoft has made a lot of strides with its server virtualization technology, especially in the addition of management capabilities. But it, like all the contenders, has to contend with the fact that VMware still has more than 80 percent share of the market.
Citrix is also strong as a server virtualization contender thanks to its legacy thin-client channel base and to its acquisition a couple of years ago of the top alternative to VMware's technology, the Xen hypervisor open-source project. Just as important is Citrix's close relationship with Microsoft. Much of its server virtualization technology works either as stand-alone products, or as add-ons to Microsoft's Hyper-V, offering channel partners a choice of how to work with Citrix.
More than eight in 10 solution providers chose APC as their primary UPS vendor in CRN's 2009 Channel Contenders study, but when solution providers look for alternative vendors, better price performance and product performance are their top considerations.
Belkin didn't have a good start to 2009. In January, the company investigated an employee who allegedly offered money to reviewers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk Web services affiliate in exchange for good reviews of Belkin products. And on the news side, Belkin's home wireless and digital signage offerings have garnered a lot more attention than its UPS line. But the company remains steadfast in its commitment to data center products -- in CRN's 2009 Channel Contenders Study, Belkin was the most frequently mentioned alternative to market segment dominator APC.
Tripp Lite has been collecting accolades for a number of its UPS and data center-related products, especially the AV550SC Backup Power Block, which was most recently a finalist for the 2009 InfoComm/SCN Award for Most Innovative Power Conditioner or Surge Protection Product. The company positions its power protecting products for digital media streaming environments, and they've become a sleeper favorite of A/V integrators thanks to hits like the AV550SC and its Pure Sine Wave UPS Systems.