VTN VARs Weigh In On Ingram, LPI Deal

For resellers in Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network, the answer is: probably.

Ingram Micro announced its decision to partner with LPI Level Platforms to offer hosted managed services to resellers at its VentureTech Network Invitational in Palm Desert, Calif., this week, and while some VTN VARs were enthusiastic and some expressed concerns, all were interested in seeing how the cards would fall.

Whether they were managed service novices or experienced practitioners, most agreed that the Ingram Micro Seismic Platform and Virtual Services Warehouse will lower the bar of entry for solution providers looking to take advantage of the market's move towards managed services, and that is a good thing.

For VTN member Jane Cage, owner of Heartland Technology Solutions, Joplin, MO, Ingram is making a smart move.

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"I think that any time a distributor can take cost out of our business, it's a positive step," she said. Even VARs who have already made investments in managed services and the accompanying infrastructure can benefit from Ingram's offering by utilizing Ingram's additional features, she said.

Ingram will begin hosting LPI's Managed Workplace product next year and is in the process of investigating how to make the offering richer by adding services like virus and spam control, e-mail management and remote back-up and recovery solutions according to Justin Crotty, vice president of services for Ingram's North American Services Division, Santa Ana, Calif.

Michael Bowman, vice president, network services at Computer Service Partners, Raleigh, N.C., said his company has been a Level Platforms partner for nine months. Ingram's decision to offer the service with additional capabilities from third-party vendors is appealing because it gives them access to greater resources, he said.

The cost of licensing the product from Ingram will be identical to that of licensing directly from LPI, but the distributor will most likely charge an additional fee to cover hosting and infrastructure costs, said Crotty. No decisions have been made as of yet and no timeline has been set, but he said that Ingram was talking with top vendors in virus, spam and e-mail management.

The cost, he said, will still be dramatically lower than the money a reseller would invest in creating their own managed services infrastructure, and he does not think that the distributor's play will have a negative affect on managed services margins.

"Making it less risky for VARs entering the space does not drive down margins. The differentiation still lies at the VAR level The tools themselves are not the service. The service is what the VAR brings to the table going forward," said Crotty.

Market share, not margin, is a concern to some.

Kevin Gallagher, president of Panurgy, a managed service provider in Denville, N.J., is concerned about the ways in which Ingram's offering will affect his company's practice. "It opens the door to other channel partners who haven't invested the money [in creating a managed services business]. I have a practice. That's what I do. Now I'm going to have more competition," he said.

He may not be off the mark, as Ingram's announcement has lead some VARs to seriously consider how and when they will take the managed services plunge.

Erle Williams, CFO of Protocol Technologies, Vernon, B.C., Canada, said there is a very good chance his company will go with Ingram's managed service. It evaluated N-Able's products three times in the last four years, and also took a look at LPI's products, but wasn't satisfied in the past.

"We were waiting for the managed services buzzword to catch on in the industry," he said. Now that it has, how the company will execute managed services and make it pay for itself need to be resolved before any product decisions are made, he said.

For Rafael Arboleda, CEO of Compulink, New York, N.Y., Ingram's stamp of approval of the Level Platforms product is a green light to begin offering managed services to its customers. Compulink was waiting for the market to mature, he said, and as the industry heads towards a managed service model, he trusts that Ingram has made a good decision based on research.

Meanwhile, John Azzinaro, president of NetTech, Kenilworth, N.J., said that he hopes Ingram is able to follow through and deliver the goods to its reseller base.

"If it turns out to be what they're projecting, it's terrific," said John Azzinaro, president of NetTech, Kenilworth, N.J. "This is what they should be doing for us."