Distributors Placing Big Bets On Server 2003-Related Assessments, Demand Gen

Devising and implementing a plan to migrate all of its manufacturing customers off Windows Server 2003 has been neither inexpensive nor easy for Perry ProTech.

But the managed service provider has gotten by with a little help from its distribution partner. The Lima, Ohio-based company, a member of the Elite 150 as part of CRN's 2015 MSP 500 List, has leveraged Ingram Micro for help with training workers and educating customers about the importance of upgrading from Server 2003 before support expires on July 14.

"Ingram has been very proactive with this entire process," Kathy Volger, Perry ProTech's communications manager, told CRN. "It's been very beneficial."

[Related: End-Of-Support: Migrating From Windows Server 2003 To Windows Server 2012]

Sponsored post

But Ingram Micro is far from the only distributor looking to capitalize on the 35 percent of small and midsize Microsoft server customers in North America that are still using Server 2003. Avnet, Synnex and Tech Data also have dedicated Server 2003 practices focused on educating end users, generating leads for solution provider partners, and offering server assessments and solution designs.

Josh Condi, a partner technology strategist at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, said at the recent Ingram Micro One conference in Orlando, Fla., that there are still 8 million instances of North American businesses running Server 2003. Condi emphasized that the servers are much more vulnerable than systems running Windows XP at this time last year since they must remain connected to the entire computing environment in order to provide any value.

"There is really incredible urgency now," Condi said. "In many cases, it is already too late to migrate before the July 14 deadline."

For solution providers that source Microsoft products through Ingram Micro there are a number of incentives, according to Tom Blankerhorn, senior director of global accounts and Microsoft for Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif.

Perry ProTech’s Volger said Ingram Micro has a dedicated staffperson to help with marketing and pre-sales around Microsoft products. As the MSP’s marketing efforts typically aren't focused on a particular product or vendor, Ingram Micro has partnered with Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard to provide the company with funding, flyers and telemarketing scripts to ensure it was getting the right message across about how customers can benefit from making the move, she said.

Ingram Micro provided Perry ProTech's sales and service teams with seminars and links for training information, Volger said, as well as a webinar for staff and customers. And when Perry ProTech pulled its billable engineers out of the field to get them certified in Windows Server 2012 R2, Volger said Ingram Micro helped both by paying for some of the certifications as well as providing training vouchers.

Blankerhorn said the distributor also has doubled down on its business intelligence and demand generation efforts for Server 2003, storing data on the products it has provided to solution providers and appending the information with data from third parties.

This investment has given Ingram Micro a clear understanding of which partners purchased Server 2003 through the distributor as well as which were purchasing a server at about the same time when Server 2003 would have been the standard, go-to option, he said. Taken together, this ensures partners have a tight list of end users to target and are focusing their time and energy in the right spot.

"We can show reseller partners where they can get the most juice from their squeeze," Blankerhorn said.

Tech Data, for its part, launched a dedicated portal for Server 2003 products and services that includes marketing tools, white papers, leads and customized plan generation. The Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor had been finding many of its solution provider partners had agnostic, non-vendor-specific questions around the Server 2003 upgrade and needed guidelines on how to best engage with end users, Brian Davis, senior vice president of U.S. marketing and purchasing at Tech Data, told CRN.

Tech Data goes beyond the assessment and is offering partners access to the distributor's systems engineering teams to help architect and design server solutions, as well as assistance with migrating the applications themselves, Davis said. Although many solution providers already have these technical capabilities in-house, Davis said they often leverage Tech Data when facing skills-related and geographic limitations.

"This is a substantial, once-in-a-generation-type opportunity to drive new solutions into the marketplace," said Davis. "From a transformational perspective, this is a big deal."

Avnet, meanwhile, has aligned itself closely with Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Cisco to drive more server activity to those vendors.

The WinFit program, which is exclusive to the Phoenix-based distributor, was launched to provide Server 2003-related partner awareness and education, demand creation, and migration and assessment services to solution providers that already work with HP, according to Alison Challman, vice president of marketing and brand solution for Avnet's HP group.

The program is focused on moving existing Windows Server 2003 customers to an on-premise or virtualized HP environment, Challman said.

Avnet also has developed webinars, white papers, marketing materials and cost analysis tools with Lenovo to assist partners with migrating customers from Server 2003 to Lenovo's new System X and ThinkServer platforms, according to a company spokeswoman. Avnet is not offering Server 2003-related incentives from Microsoft, a company spokesman said.

Synnex, for its part, touts its assessments, which offer the channel an opportunity to assess network and server connections and uncover upgrade opportunities, as a differentiator, said Rob Moyer, vice president of the Microsoft global business unit and cloud services for Synnex.

To spur further migration action, Microsoft is offering solution providers a 10 percent subsidy on every Windows or SQL Server (the latter is a relational database management system) sold through Synnex, according to Cindy Bates, Microsoft's vice president of U.S. SMB and distribution.

The Fremont, Calif.-based distributor also is helping solution providers build specific initiatives around Server 2003, Moyer said, putting together countdowns, webinars and lead generation campaigns. Moyer sees Synnex's job as helping partners make doctors, dentists and attorney's offices aware that the end of life for Server 2003 is a compelling event and that they need to act.

"All these small businesses, all they know is that stuff works," Moyer said.