2010 Emerging Vendors

While solution providers have found great success getting in on the ground floor of hot new vendors, there’s also an element of risk involved. One wrong move could cost a client.

But today, more than ever, solution providers are taking the plunge, tying products from emerging vendors into their solution offerings as a key differentiator.

John Pfaff, president of Trace|3, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, said it’s all about uncovering the next big thing. And Trace|3 knows about that, having hit home runs swinging the emerging vendor bats of Palo Alto Networks and Riverbed Technology, both of which at one point were climbing their ways out of obscurity.

“The emerging market technology is key for a bunch of reasons,” Pfaff said. “Trace|3’s main value ... is our engineering expertise, sales team, support, all of that, and a close second right behind that is being the guys who are able to come in and position some of these emerging technologies before the markets and our clients even see them coming.”

Henry Park, CEO of 3GC Group, a Los Angeles-based solution provider specializing in converged network solutions, said emerging vendors make up roughly 15 percent of his overall business. “It’s not something you want to focus your whole company on,” Park said, but added, “whatever has high risk, there’s a lot of reward with it.”

3GC works with Agito Networks, a fixed-mobile convergence/mobile unified communications startup that has been making waves. In the past, 3GC aligned itself with other vendors which, at the time, were emerging but have now cemented their spots in the marketplace: ShoreTel and Meru Networks.

Solution providers learn of emerging vendors in several ways: The vendor comes to them, the client hears about it first, or there’s chatter on Wall Street. The trick, Park said, is to research a company before taking the plunge. Emerging vendors can burst onto the scene quickly but can vanish just as fast. Park recommends solution providers get to know the executives, understand the financials and become an expert on that company.

“One of the risks and one of the parts of this vetting process is to look at the finance angle of it,” Park said. “It’s really important during that process getting to know that vendor and sitting down with that executive group.”

For International Computerware Inc. (ICI), a Marlborough, Mass.-based infrastructure solution provider, the emerging vendor vetting process comes down to evaluation and testing. That’s how ICI came upon two of its emerging vendors: Actifio and Neustar.

“When we evaluate a new technology, we make sure there is a real good business need,” said Jamie Shepard, ICI’s executive vice president of technology solutions. “When ICI selects a vendor they have a very unique background, it hits the market in a way nobody else does, and it allows us to have a repeatable process.”

And being picky can pay off. In Trace|3’s case, the solution provider was able to infiltrate massive accounts like Caterpillar in Peoria, Ill., based on solutions it built leveraging emerging vendors and new technologies.

“With emerging technologies, we can get into any account we can really apply ourselves to and work on,” Trace|3’s Pfaff said, adding that Trace|3 is always on the hunt for the next emerging vendor and new technology shift to wow its clients.

Looking for new and emerging vendors to bolster your solution sets? Read on to see a full list of up-and-comers and what value they can bring to your business as CRN presents 2010’s Emerging Vendors.