2009 Channel Champions

Today's solution provider has more access to vendors and different categories of products than ever before. And that means that the opportunities for VARs to make profits are more varied--especially if they partner with the vendors that are right for them.

Everything Channel's Channel Champion survey helps solution providers select from the myriad vendors out there, the cream of the crop. Channel Champs measures the satisfaction of solution providers that currently sell a particular vendor's products and/or services--regardless of whether or not they are formally in a manufacturer's channel program. It is the largest VAR satisfaction study conducted.

One hundred fifteen vendors were rated across 24 product and service categories. Surveyed VARs familiar with the manufacturers' products and/or services rated how vendors performed in the areas of support, finance and technology. Among the most strategic areas solution providers considered were product quality, price for performance, competitive pricing and postsales support. (For more, see "Channel Champs By The Numbers" at Everythingchannel.com.)

Hewlett-Packard was the biggest Channel Champ winner, bringing home six overall awards, including one for HP/ProCurve in the SMB Networking Hardware category.

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"HP Blade Elite is [a] good practice for us. We do everything through the customers' eyes. We work closely with IBM, Cisco. Our teams will probably make an HP call after a discussion with the customer, but we are largely agnostic to brand.We really want to go with what is best for the customer," said John Convery of Denali Systems Inc., Denver. "HP's uniqueness is it has products across the portfolio which competitors don't have."

The other winning vendors were fairly equally distributed among the categories: In terms of number of awards, after HP, Cisco came in second with three overall category wins, and Microsoft and IBM tied for third place with two wins apiece.

The survey found that many VARs aren't tied down with one brand, and many solution providers offer different vendors as parts of different, complex solutions.

"We are the concierge desk: We can present a number of solutions," Convery said. "We're Cisco, we're also a ProCurve elite partner. We can represent the whole solution stack. If we don't have a competitor and a customer wants that vendor, he'll go somewhere else. HP understands that we're not going to go boil the ocean--if that's what customers want, and it solves their problems, we'll go ahead and do it."

Sometimes that means vendors--not just VARs--must aggressively expand their offerings. Case in point is Oracle. Oracle's acquisition of multiple application vendors in recent years, including PeopleSoft and JD Edwards, has broadened the vendor's application sales base, channel partners say. The JD Edwards Enterprise One application suite, especially, "is getting a lot of traction among SMBs," said Ron Zapar, CEO of Re-Quest Inc., a Naperville, Ill.-based systems integrator. On April 20, Oracle and Sun announced that they entered into a definitive agreement under which Oracle will acquire Sun common stock. Oracle will own two key Sun software assets: Java and Solaris, according to an Oracle press release.

Xerox, too, was an exemplary vendor, with the highest rating in the entire survey in two of the three subcategories--Support and Financial factors--and the top overall score in the survey. Seagate received the highest score in the Technical subcategory.