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Red Hat Earmarks Desktop Client For SMB Partners

Red Hat aims to win over the channel with the summer launch of a Linux desktop product that's targeted at solution providers selling to small and midsize businesses.

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With the move, Red Hat will be migrating to a "channel enablement" model that stands to spur partner sales, Nick Carr, director of product management for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, told CRN. "We are going to be changing our product mix to allow channel sales," he said. "We are changing our client supply model."

Carr discussed the initiative in Red Hat's first appearance before system builders at the Intel Solutions Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Get ready, it's coming," said Carr of the desktop client channel assault.

Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat is hammering out the pricing and packaging of the desktop client for the SMB market, according to Carr. Currently, solution providers and end users wanting to buy the desktop client must purchase at least 10 clients, he said, adding that to make it "financially viable," a partner typically would have to buy 50 to 75 desktops, he said.

"Obviously, in the SMB space, people don't want to start at those large numbers. They want to purchase one or two," Carr said.

One reason Red Hat is at the Intel event is to learn what it must do to enable system builders to sell the Red Hat client, said Gerry Riveros, product marketing manager for desktop client solutions at Red Hat. "They are telling us we need [channel] programs in place, and they need to have benefits to show them how to sell it to their customers," he said. "We've got to do the blocking and tackling."

Carr told system builders that Red Hat aims to move from 57 percent direct sales in 2005 to as much as 70 percent of sales from the channel, with 30 percent direct. "We are turning the whole model over on its head," he said. "Clearly, that is where we are going to grow. This is how we are going to grow. This is a major commitment."

Andrew Betterton, president and CEO of Open Storage Solutions, a Brampton, Ontario-based system builder, said he's interested in a potential Red Hat partnership. "I'd like to learn more about their program and the options they have to support me," Betterton said. Currently, about half of Open Storage Solutions' systems are Unix-based, he added.

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