Sun Professional Services Wooing Skeptical Partners

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Sun Microsystems said two upcoming programs will go a long way toward building strong ties between Sun Professional Services (SunPS) and solution providers.

Some Sun partners, however, said they are skeptical because of past channel conflict.

According to company documents obtained by CRN, Sun this month will launch the Authorized Sales and Referral Program (ASRP) and the Authorized Delivery Program (ADP).

The ASRP will allow solution providers to market and resell SunTone Certified Services, earn fees on leads provided to SunPS and team with SunPS on engagements. Under the ADP, qualified Sun iForce partners may license, market and sell SunPS-branded services after they are trained and certified.

Gary Grimes, Sun's vice president of U.S. partner management and sales operations, said the new programs form the third leg of SunPS' strategy to partner with solution providers. Currently, Sun enables them to resell Sun-branded services and to subcontract with SunPS for client engagements.

Sun has said repeatedly it does not intend to compete with partners on services. Aside from about 110 named accounts where SunPS takes the lead, the vendor's professional services arm usually works in tandem with solution providers, Grimes said.

Yet solution providers said SunPS has competed with them in non-named accounts.

One source, who requested anonymity, said SunPS even stole a deal his company brought to the table. "They pretty much took over the whole engagement and took over the client. They cut us out completely."

Mike Shook, CEO of solution provider Strategic Technologies, Raleigh, N.C., said he believes conflict with SunPS has increased only because of the uncertain economic climate.

"There haven't been a lot of deals, so there have been instances where we've been competing with SunPS where [the account is not named," Shook said.

Still, Shook believes that "if there's conflict at the professional services level, [Sun wants no part of it."

Michael Lance, manager of technical services at Mountain View, Calif.-based solution provider Eakins Open Systems, said one way to alleviate channel conflict is to institute rules of engagement. Grimes said Sun is considering such a move.

Lance added that Sun should educate end users why it is important for solution providers to have their services branded with SunTone, since "the customer base doesn't [understand what SunTone is."

Sources also expressed concerned that Sun may be committed to working with partners now as a ploy to grow its professional services arm, to be more like IBM Global Services.

But Grimes insisted that won't happen. "We are not trying to build a professional services [organization with global reach," he said.

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