Tech Data Makes Some Noise In Telephony Arena

Distributor adds 3Com’s NBX networked solutions to line card

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Tech Data wants to be heard loud and clear when it comes to distributing integrated telephony products.

The Clearwater-based distributor is now distributing 3Com's NBX networked telephony solutions, which integrate voice and data services over existing IP networks. The products will be sold through Tech Data's networking solutions specialized business unit.

"IP PBXes are more cost-effective and easier to manage because you don't have separate networks for voice and data," said Roy Appelbaum, vice president and general manager of high-end networking and storage technologies at Tech Data.

3Com NBX products are also distributed through Ingram Micro and telephony distributors Alltel, Little Rock, Ark., and Graybar Electric, St. Louis.

Tech Data also sells IP PBXes from Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks.

3Com selected Tech Data as a distributor to further penetrate the SMB market, said Dave Smith, vice president of sales for the Americas at 3Com. "We are looking to train and certify data VARs," he said. "We've converted most of our NBX sales through distribution. Only a very small percentage goes direct."

Alvaka Networks, a managed services provider, buys from Alltel and isn't sure a broadline distributor could adequately support a complex product such as NBX, said Oli Thordarson, president of Alvaka, Huntington Beach, Calif.

3Com's products will be sold through Tech Data's specialized business unit.

"The [broadline model is so fulfillment- and credit-oriented. That's where their value is. They'll be able to compete on a lower cost, but I fear in a short time, the Alltels and Graybars will be sucked into a vacuum. I might be able to get it for three points less at Ingram Micro or Tech Data, but what's the real cost if the value isn't there anymore?"

Bob Parsons, president of Automated Office Solutions, also buys from Alltel now but may look to Tech Data because the Evansville, Ind.-based solution provider buys so much other product from Tech Data.

"We're not displeased with Alltel, but we're interested to see what Tech Data has to say," Parson said.

Tech Data has 13 systems engineers certified by 3Com, and before April, the distributor plans to offer NBX training courses in Tampa, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Santa Clara, Calif. Other cities will follow, and Tech Data will provide all the support a solution provider needs, Appelbaum said.

"Major manufacturers are establishing their place in the market. The dollars are starting to be there," he said. "The whole IT telephony marketplace has been a major focus for us. We were waiting for the marketplace to mature, and now we're adding a lot of resources."

Telephone systems traditionally were sold by interconnects but are becoming a more attractive opportunity to traditional VARs and systems integrators, he said.

The IP PBX market was $199 million last year and is expected to grow 50 percent to $299 million this year, according to Infostor.

"As voice and data continue to merge, VARs bring incremental value for the equipment they sell and the knowledge they bring to small businesses," Appelbaum said. "The big advantage to selling these types of solutions is the great opportunity for wrapping services around it. Most resellers successful in this space are selling installations, site surveys. They're making a lot of money on services,typically in excess of 20 points for the whole solution. They're also gaining a lot of account control."

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