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If all goes according to plan, ePlus will exit its fiscal 2013 in an exclusive channel club most solution providers never set foot in: $1 billion in revenue.
It's the latest milestone in what's been a steady climb to the ranks of the channel elite and made ePlus not only one of the most formidable channel players in the country but also one that's kept its reputation -- at least among customers, fellow channel partners and the industry's major vendors -- largely unvarnished.
Those attributes will prove important during the ongoing transformation of the IT channel, as the country's major solution providers, particularly those with traditional IT reseller backgrounds, attempt to become service- and solution-oriented technology practices that can play all of the roles -- reseller, integrator, service provider, consultant, architecture specialist, diplomat -- required of the channel in the cloud computing era, and sell stacks and architectures, not point products and maintenance.
EPlus, based in Herndon, Va., ranked No. 38 on this year's Solution Provider 500, CRN's annual ranking of North America channel partners formerly known as the VAR500. For its fiscal year ended March 31, 2012, it reported revenue of $825.6 million, up $107.1 million from 2011's $718.5 million. CRN conducted a series of interviews with ePlus executives both before and during the ePlus National Sales Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., in May, as well as at Cisco's Partner Summit in San Diego in April, along with executives from solution provider rivals and from major vendors on the ePlus line card.
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What emerged from those interviews was a portrait of a legitimately sturdy channel powerhouse with a technology partnership breadth covering more than 100 vendors, but one that in personality is an almost workmanlike company that isn't ostentatious when celebrating its growth and doesn't chase technology fads.
It's all in, however, with multimillion-dollar investments in architecture and platform plays behind a stack of solutions that includes data center, collaboration, security, infrastructure, professional and managed services, and software for procurement and asset management, as well as financing options.
Mark Marron, president of ePlus Technology, said it's no great mystery why the solution provider hasn't wavered from that approach.
"What differentiates us compared to others is that what we are building is a set of comprehensive solutions which goes wider than one or two silos. Customers are facing the same challenges as many partners: how to approach architecture, because when you're recommending and designing solutions at that level, making the right choice is important. So you have to bet on the right technology but also be able to offer the services and the integration capabilities to tie it all together.
"We're not just coming in and giving customers a product-oriented solution and then moving on," Marron explained. "To satisfy today's needs, you have to have the capabilities to provide up-front assessments, manage the transition from physical to virtual to a cloud environment, analyze the data structure, virtual security and physical security, make sure you're up-to-date with numerous regulatory, policy, and IT compliance issues, install the solution, and provide the ongoing managed services to make sure it stays working. We think you have to come at it that way to be truly relevant in today's market."