Another Distributor Launches Managed Services Offering


Bell Microproducts plans to offer two versions of managed service: one in which it hosts the infrastructure and provides reporting to solution providers of their end users' networks and a second initiative in which the San Jose, Calif.-based distributor helps solution providers build their own MSP practice, said Gary Gammon, vice president of marketing at Bell Microproducts.

"Looking at the planning we do with customers, we felt we could provide a value add on top of their core business. Managed services are a key opportunity going forward to increase penetration with customers and win more business," Gammon said. "We selected SilverBack because we feel their technology and the way they approach the market is most comprehensive solution for our marketplace. The history of Bell Micro is storage solutions for customers. We want to expand services offerings. We wanted a service that VARs can offer if they don't have the capital, or are not able to build a NOC themselves, and have a way in which they can take more ownership of the program over time."

Bell Microproducts has not finalized pricing on the SilverBack managed services, but solution providers will make a minimum of 15 percent margin, Gammon said. The distributor also plans a series of training events, both Web-based and in-person, as well as documentation to help solution providers get started, he said.

Gammon recognizes that solution providers could work directly with SilverBack, but he hopes Bell Micro's initiative to front the infrastructure costs -- and provide a one-stop shop for other products and services -- will prove enticing.

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"Distribution is beginning to dabble in this market. Most models today don't involve distribution. But there has to be a play [involving distributors] because of the capital we have and the back office that we can fill to help VARs to get into the business," Gammon said. "A reseller can feel more comfortable working with Bell Micro vs. an MSP provider. Our business is the reseller business. We are not looking to build an MSP organization that services end users directly.

"We help build storage businesses and having managed services and also our new storage assessment tool gives resellers a lot of reason to work with Bell Micro. They can get a lot of services, including credit, from one location," Gammon said.

Mocha Data, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based solution provider has spent the last six to 12 months looking at different MSP offerings without signing a deal, said John Conlin, vice president of sales. Now that distributor Bell Micro is a potential partner to lean on for both support and guidance, his decision may be made, he said.

"The thing we like about their program into enterprise accounts in the upper Midwest is we can offer a number of different possibilities to customers," Conlin said. "We can help them dip their toe, then their foot, then jump in. It's truly a crawl, walk, run scenario. That's a very attractive piece for our customers and for Mocha Data."

"This is something we can resell like other products. They already have a couple of data centers. We wouldn't have to build that out as a reseller. Without having to behave like it was 1999 again, we don't have to put cart before the horse.

Bell Micro has a green field with its customers regarding managed services. Most of its solution providers haven't invested in their own initiative, Gammon said.

"That's why they saw it as an opportunity. Still There are a lot of questions about it. They're interested in learning more about it," Gammon said. "It's still an undefined market.

Bell Micro's initiative is geared toward midmarket customers' servers, storage devices and routers, as opposed to desktop machines, Gammon said.

"It makes a lot of sense to package monitoring with other services within a solution. But a 7x24 NOC, reporting, managing the devices according to an SLA takes space and IT investment. This allows us to leverage multiple pieces of Bell Micro. If you are a small company, putting $100,000 into your business and then having no customers immediately, your return takes a while. This way lets a reseller gain some revenue, with a predictable income stream. This is a perfect way to do that.

The deal is not exclusive to either side, but Bell Micro has no plans to add additional MSP partners in the near future, Gammon said.

"At this time, we are only working with SilverBack. For this kind of program, you really need to build around one supplier. I think SilverBack feels the same way. We didn't sign exclusive, but it will be exclusive for a time. Work is required to make it successful."