Top 5 Things You Should Know About ARC

Which vendor partners are rated tops by VARs--and which need help to bring them up to par? Solution providers rated their VARs in the 2009 Annual Report Card. The results offer up suggestions for which solution providers VARs should have on their dance cards, and which are currently wallflowers.

The survey offers insight on how vendors are performing in respective categories as well as by 18 criteria. All the scores are based on the results of surveys of solution providers that deal specifically with these vendors. Following are five top-line findings to help solution providers find the best vendor for the technology solutions they are implementing today and in the near future.

1 Highest Scores

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The top score in the entire report card was a 105.4 in the Network Storage (SAN or NAS) technology category, within the quality and reliability criteria, earned by EMC. The storage giant earned a similar score (105) last year, but was bested by Intel in Microprocessors, a category not included in this year's survey. In fact, EMC earned top scores in many criteria, including ease of doing business, manages channel conflict and marketability, among others. Other excellent scores included Panasonic's 104.4 in the Notebooks/Mobile Computers category, and Fortinet's 103.6 in Network Security Appliances, both of which were also within the quality and reliability criteria.

2 Lowest Scores

IBM earned the dubious distinction of having the lowest score in the report card: a 43.3, in the partner portal criteria in the Network Storage (SAN or NAS) technical category. Overall, IBM performed poorly in that category, earning a total weighted score far below average and ranking eighth (last). That's a far cry from last year's third place overall in Network Storage. The second-lowest score was also IBM's: a 44.9 in Midrange Servers--once again in partner portals.

3 Economic Factors

Solution providers are focusing more intently on reducing total cost of ownership for their customers. "I think operating expense reduction and cost containment are now just part of the culture, and doing more with less will remain key," said Bluewater Communications CEO Bob Cagnazzi. That's made vendors look at everything anew, from VAR partner councils to helping VARs identify services opportunities.

"Services is the big hot topic now," said Kendra Krause, vice president, channels sales and operations, at Fortinet. "That can mean providing security assessments on networks and installations, or managed security services. And now it's not just large VARs, but small and midsize companies can play in the market because of new technology and low-cost entry points." Fortinet finished first in the Network Security Appliances category, up from second place last year and seventh place in 2007. It had one of the survey's highest scores, with a 103.6 in quality and reliability.

4 Most Improved

Among the many stories within the ARC, the most inspiring are those of the most improved (see story, page 65). This year, Hewlett-Packard and Symantec rose significantly in the ranks. For HP, that meant moving from fifth last year to second this year in the Notebooks/Mobile Computers category, and from sixth to first in Workgroup Color Printers. In Storage Software, Symantec moved from fifth to second, and in Client Security Software, from sixth to third. "We felt that if we took a proactive standpoint in terms of communication and highlighted those things that we have in our partner program, we'd see results," said Tricia Atchison, senior director, channel marketing, at Symantec. "We made a huge effort in terms of communication."

5 Expectations

Is the recession over--or will it linger into the first part of next year? Based on ARC respondents, it appears that some segments have started picking up, such as network security, while others, like notebooks, are likely to continue their decline into 2010.