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POWER PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT
Solution providers, the time is now to build yourself a full-fledged power practice. Elements of the data center that were formerly the province of maintenance--everything from environmental monitoring and rack management--are creating some of the most untapped opportunities out there for VARs who get power.
"Things like virtualization and server consolidation have created business and IT trends that all have a power and cooling play for solution providers--and that's pretty dramatic," said APC's McKernan. "Our solution providers are excited about that, but it also leads to their biggest request. They'll say, 'I'm selling a single-phase UPS or individual racks today and I'm getting asked for more sophisticated power and cooling devices and being asked more specific questions about how to maintain them. How do I take advantage of that opportunity?'"
The results of Everything Channel's 2009 State of the Market survey, released in December, hold that of all peripherals segments, uninterrupted power supplies (UPSes) would see the most increase in solution provider sales focus this year.
"We want to create a footprint and help resellers truly build a power practice," suggested Eaton's Gangi. "Power practices are something that have to do with education, not only the products but the services that are associated with them. Power requirements are going to continue to get much more complicated, and that's not something the reseller community has focused on."
In the survey, roughly half of the solution providers picked single-phase UPS as having the greatest profit potential in the next 12 months, and the other half picked it as having the least. (Regardless, the average selling price has declined, they said.)
From a vendor perspective, most of the channel discussion on power management and protection starts with APC, which bested the competition in terms of what brands surveyed VARs said they were most willing to recommend. APC was also tops among solution providers in terms of who offers the best profit opportunity, followed by Tripp Lite Corp., HP, Liebert and IBM Corp.
"APC is the big name out there," said MCO's Donnagin. "We offer a number of brands but everyone knows APC's name. The dealings I've had have been good."
"Certainly, APC is our preferred partner in that space," said Datec's Smith. "I like them fine, but it's not like they're rife with competition. Sometimes they're a mess from a channel standpoint--a lot of it is them not always understanding what the channel does or how they should be involved--but they don't go out of the way to be unfair or anything."
Environmental monitoring--temperature and humidity--is the area solution providers suggested had the greatest level of opportunity to attach services. As the data center gets more sophisticated, its power requirements evolve apace.
"The partners that have been successful are the ones that are either developing their own in-house electrical or mechanical expertise, or collaborating with other types of partners who are electrical and mechanical type shops anyway," McKernan said. "Some of the truly special solution providers out there are really getting paid to do more of the front-end design work as well. A customer says to them, 'Help me design my data center as it is today, and show me how I go about future planning.' That's how you take it from a box sale into much more of a solution play."
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