True North Changes Direction

No longer focused exclusively as a Sun Microsystems reseller and consultancy, the Sun Elite Software Specialty partner now seeks its own resellers and agents to help it sell new twists on the managed service business model.

In effect, True North now works by a different compass.

“My idea was to build the ‘big friggin& Web tone switch& that [Sun CEO] Scott McNealy talked about in 2001,” Nassaur said from True North&s Alpharetta, Ga., headquarters. “But Sun&s vision is to take a grid and let and the like run on it. My view is anyone can do that. The real value lies in integrating any kind of on-demand application with everything else in your company.”

So, for example, True North&s MyInternetPC service enables individuals and small businesses to subscribe to Microsoft software as a utility—even though the software hasn&t been re-engineered for an on-demand world. The service allows practically any browser-equipped computer to run Microsoft software, with complete access to their files. True North would like customers to think of MyInternetPC as their “personal supercomputer,” available to them wherever they happen to be. “I want your PC to be a combination of all my resources, so you never even have to bring your computer with you,” Nassaur said. “My goal is to enable customers to never have to buy hardware again.”

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True North has already signed up two agents for MyInternetPC, including Apple reseller Daystar Technology.

“This will widen our market,” said Gary Daily, president and CEO of the Buford, Ga.-based company. “It brings a flexible alternative to VirtualPC, which is dog slow. And we have a lot of customers that would like to see an alternative to Citrix. Plus it gives us another sword in our belt, as a managed service provider, but without having to take on any of the infrastructure costs. As an agent, we&ll handle first-tier tech support, pre- and postsales service and customer service. And for that, we get a 20 percent fee.”

True North aims its other service, Northstar, at midmarket companies, which can rent a broad range of a la carte infrastructure services, including integration, desktop provisioning, directory synchronization—even centralized infrastructure management.

Customers also can subscribe to turnkey solutions. The access and security solution, for example, gives customers a central console with which to manage policies governing how and what users can access throughout the organization, Nassaur said. Infrastructure management provides centralized password, patch and upgrade management. And the application platform solution gives nearly instant access to additional server capacity.

“All of this is integrated, because it&s all based on network identity and how you extend that identity to legacy applications,” Nassaur said.

True North does not use Citrix. Instead, it applies Java and other industry-standard technologies for such functions as terminal emulation, network identity and directory synchronization. Operating technologies from the data center gives channel partners a low overhead means of getting into the managed service business.

“So, say a hardware reseller is looking for ways to reinvent themselves. In that scenario, they just have to generate a business lead. I will send in a team of sales engineers, we do the work and give them a 10 [percent] to 20 percent referral fee, depending on the role they play,” Nassaur said. “The higher my cost of sale, the lower their margin. Because we&re getting to the point of wholesaling this to service providers, such as telcos, the margin opportunity for agents is getting really exciting.”