Sun Channel Chief Sees Bright New SMB Day

Since taking over the helm a little more than three months ago, following the retirement of Sun Microsystems' longtime channel chief Gary Grimes, Sun's Vice President for Strategic Area Partner Sales Greg Stroud has set about getting the vendor's channel ready to compete for a greater share of midrange market by leveraging the Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices in a broad range of servers. In an interview with Editor in Chief Michael Vizard and Managing Editor/News Larry Hooper, Stroud says that the best is yet to come for Sun channel partners focused on the SMB space.

CRN: Beyond launching Solaris 10 this week, how would you describe Sun's overall strategy?

STROUD: It's an Opteron/Linux/Solaris strategy that we're putting into the marketplace. We believe there is a significant competitive advantage for enterprises to deploy on Solaris after opening up Solaris to industry-standard hardware. And since Linux is Unix, what company is better positioned to deal with Linux?

CRN: How committed to Opteron is Sun vs. your competitors that have also begun selling Opteron servers?

STROUD: What other company is going to have a full product line around Opteron? If you look at our competition, Sun is the only one coming out with a family of Opteron servers. We've got a lot of opportunity areas targeted at Opteron that we will build some specific partner programs around, so stayed tune on that. We're going to get out there with an SBM strategy. But right now, we need to create volume, and the best opportunity to do that is in our installed base.

Sponsored post

CRN: How will you balance the roles of your various distribution partners as they all vie for the SMB space? To a degree, Arrow, GE Access and Tech Data all have designs on the SMB space.

STROUD: What we built up is a strong, profitable channel that is focused on the enterprise space. With the introduction of the Opteron, we have an opportunity to grow in the volume space, and that's where Tech Data can represent us. I believe Tech Data is focused in a different area. Tech Data is not going to go out and aggressively sign up enterprise resellers. And the resellers that do business with Arrow and GE Access are in our largest accounts. With Opeteron, we now have a product that is hugely appealing to the SMB space. My job is to build up the economic incentives for our enterprise channel to come play in that space.

CRN: Will Sun then try to push its enterprise partners out of that space so it can reserve the enterprise market for itself?

STROUD: We're not telling partners to leave our enterprise accounts. We're not evicting anyone. We want a channel where anyone can sell to anyone. There's no segregation. We need to create a profit model that allows our partners to determine where they want to participate. We're not going to dictate terms.

CRN: What ambitions does Sun have in the services space?

STROUD: We've integrated our presales technical group with our post-sales technical professional services into a single organization called Client Services. But our entire services organization is about 4,500 people. That's not a lot of people so the only way Sun can deploy is through our partners. What we are asking our partners to do is get into the services end of the business and fill that void. We need them to deliver services to our customers where we don't have the reach or just provide services that we don't provide. We're the only major player that can articulate a value proposition with a clear market for our partners. We're trying to create the concept of the infinite bench through our iForce partners. You're not going to see Sun growing its services organization.

CRN: Then why is Sun rolling out various managed services vs. relying solely on partners to perform that function?

STROUD: Where we developed the intellectual property, we believe that we are able to deliver services to manage that intellectual property better than anybody in the world. But because Sun doesn't have a lot tied up in services, we can be a lot more creative. For instance, we're thinking about selling server provisioning as a service to partners on a wholesale basis that our partners can resell. That's the kind of conversation you can get into with Sun that is much more difficult to have with our competitors.

CRN: Looking beyond Linux and Solaris, what can people expect to see from the much-heralded alliance between Sun and Microsoft?

STROUD: That deal represents a huge opportunity for our partner base. So stay tuned. There are a number of engineering projects underway at Sun and regularly scheduled meetings between senior executives of Sun and Microsoft. There are a lot of things in the horizon.