CRN Tech Elite 250

Solution providers have to be at the top of their game these days. Not just to meet the needs of their increasingly demanding customers, but also the ever-tougher expertise and certification standards being set by IT vendors.

And so we present this year’s CRN Tech Elite 250, the definitive list of solution providers with deep technical expertise and premier certifications serving customers in North America. These VARs are best-of-breed integrators who have invested in technical know-how and top-level certifications in the areas of data centers and infrastructure to differentiate themselves.

Take ePlus Inc., a Herndon, Va.-based solution provider that partners with -- and has certifications from -- just about every major IT vendor, including Cisco, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, NetApp, Symantec and VMware.

“We have such a breadth of expertise,” said CTO Mark Melvin. “I think we have more VMware-certified people than anyone else.”

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Altogether, ePlus has some 160 to 170 certified sales, support and engineering staffers and many hold certifications from multiple vendors, giving the company an edge in today’s increasingly heterogeneous computing environments. “Having that broad knowledge is a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he said.

“For us, certification has really been ingrained in the culture of the company, since the very beginning. We always say, the best trained army wins the war,” said Joe Mertens, president and CEO of Sirius Computer Solutions, a Tech Elite solution provider whose employees hold some 5,500 certifications from Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and other vendors.

While there are obvious benefits for solution providers who hold lots of certifications in their arsenal, Mertens said they are also a way his company measures its own technical prowess. Last year, Sirius won IBM’s Beacon Award for “overall technical vitality.”

GreenPages CTO John Ross likewise sees the value of certifications not so much in meeting vendor requirements, but to help GreenPages’ engineers and technical architects develop a common knowledge base and language. “It’s more for the personal satisfaction for the staff,” he said. This year the solution provider, which also made this year’s Tech Elite list, has budgeted $400,000 for meeting vendor training and certification requirements.

“It definitely is a big investment,” said Melvin at ePlus, without disclosing a dollar figure. “If we took every certification our vendors wanted, our engineers would never be in the field.” The key is choosing certifications that line up with market directions and the partners’ technical leadership goals, he said.

CRN editors developed the Tech Elite list. It is based on the level and depth of certifications from EMC, IBM, Cisco, VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Symantec and NetApp. Editors worked with VARs and experts to define the most important certifications. They mapped the certifications against the key technology opportunities as defined by our State of the Market and State of the Midmarket studies and built the list based on the level and depth of technical certifications within the VAR organization. For information about purchasing the Tech Elite 250 list, please send an e-mail to [email protected].