As cash-strapped customers put increasing emphasis on IT solutions that solve business problems and provide solid ROI, technologies such as wireless and IP videoconferencing also are poised for growth, according to solution providers recently surveyed for the 2009 CRN State of Technology: Networking study.
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Solution providers named network management, VoIP, unified data center devices and Gigabit Ethernet switches as the technologies set to provide the most growth for their businesses this year. Network management also topped the list of most profitable technologies for the channel, followed by unified data center devices, Gigabit Ethernet switches and VoIP.
Unified data center devices represent one of the newest technology opportunities for networking VARs. Cisco Systems Inc. in March, for example, debuted its Unified Computing System, a platform that combines networking and server technology to target data center environments. Other vendors, such as Juniper Networks Inc. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc., also are expanding their portfolios to put more emphasis on the role of the network inside the data center.
More familiar technology areas, such as video, also continue to find a foothold, solution providers said.
"The opportunity [around IP videoconferencing] has grown dramatically over the last 12 months," said Patrick Vardeman, vice president of business development at Accudata Systems, Houston, a solution provider that works with Cisco's TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing line. "Travel obviously is one [benefit], when you look at executives, leadership and managers, but also one of the soft returns [customers] see is people meeting more. You used to fly out and have a meeting once a month or once a quarter. Now with video introduced into that conversation, you have people who are meeting more frequently, which is building more efficiencies into the business."
More than 70 percent of surveyed VARs said customers' need to cut travel costs is the No. 1 sales driver for videoconferencing.
ROI is key, particularly for small customers, said Robert Betzel, president of Infinity Network Solutions, a solution provider in Atlanta that works with a variety of vendors, including Cisco, 3Com Corp. and Digium Inc.
"Most small businesses are buying on ROI. At the end of the day they're not going to buy products just to try them out. They're looking for something that solves a business process need or improves their business," Betzel said.
Wireless and mobility solutions, for example, are particularly appealing for small businesses right now, he said. "The more they can get their staff out to their clients, the better."