Briefs: August 21, 2006


The new VAR recruits are part of Express Track, a plan that IBM launched earlier this year to add 5,000 new partners worldwide. "We initially said we were going to target 5,000 partners, but the reality is, after we've gotten into it, we think there is an opportunity for even more than that," said Donn Atkins, general manager of IBM Global Business Partners.

And as IBM adds partners, it's trying to avoid increasing competition for its current partners, Atkins noted. So the IT giant is targeting new geographies and new niches, primarily in the small- and midsize-business market, he said. To help attract new partners, IBM is highlighting its Express Seller product portfolio, including Intel- and Advanced Micro Devices-based System x and BladeCenter server lines and entry-level storage. IBM has dedicated 300 people worldwide to "do nothing but support this new partner base," Atkins said.

Hewlett-Packard is promising margins of up to 38 points on its PC blades beginning Nov. 1.

"I never thought those words would come out of my mouth in the PC business," said John Snaider, vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group Americas for business PCs, who announced the hefty margins to solution providers attending the XChange '06 conference in St. Louis, held last week by CRN publisher CMP Technology.

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The 38 points represent the discount off the list price that HP will offer to the channel, Snaider said. Typical desktop PC margins are seven points to eight points off the list, he added.

There's a caveat to the blade margin promise: Snaider said that only HP enterprise solution providers are authorized to sell the PC blades, and only enterprise distributors Avnet and Agilysys are authorized to distribute the products.

"This is going through enterprise distribution, so it's new and different for PCs," Snaider said. "It won't go through typical volume distributors. The thinking is to keep the value."

VARs must set up the architecture to service the desktop PC blades, which HP introduced last November, Snaider said. He added that enterprise solution providers are used to dealing with larger blade servers and consolidation.

In addition to being enterprise HP solution providers, VARs selling the PC blades must go through training in order to be authorized to sell the systems.

When the new Windows Vista client ships, it won't work with current SQL Server database releases. And neither will the forthcoming "Longhorn" Windows Server, forcing VARs to make sure database customers are running the latest-and-greatest SQL Server bits.

Though it's not widely known, Vista and the "Longhorn" Windows Server will support SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 and later. SP2 is due to ship soon after Vista to ensure compatibility. Microsoft maintains that Vista remains on course for general availability early next year.

Late last month, Microsoft posted FAQs and information on database requirements for Vista on its site. The latest newsletter from the SQL Server Worldwide Users Group (SSWUG) touted the news last week.

Of particular concern to VARs is the fact that there will be no support of the older Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE), a small, embeddable version of older SQL Server releases. Many customers may have MSDE running and not even know it. VARs say there are many applications still running on older SQL Server 2000 and earlier releases of the database.

SQL Server 2005 shipped in November 2005, and SP1 was released in April this year. One consideration for cutting off support for older SQL Server 2000 SKUs, including the MSDE, is that those versions don't support Windows Update Services and can't be patched automatically, as the successor database can.

Users wanting to continue with SQL Server 2000"presumably running on older operating systems"can do so under standard support until November 2007. Extended support, which carries an additional charge, continues for 10 years.

Customers running SQL Server 2000 on Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 who want to update are advised to run trial versions of SQL Server 2005 and Windows Vista Beta 2 to test applications. Then they would need to upgrade their databases to SQL Server 2005 SP1 and then upgrade to Vista.

Startup LifeSize last week expanded its lineup of high-definition videoconferencing wares with the launch of a new system priced below $8,000.

LifeSize Team, available now to solution providers, is a fully integrated system that includes a codec, pan/tilt/zoom camera and speakerphone, providing high-definition video and audio.

The company is aiming the new product line at customers that require small conferencing environments, such as those with distributed project teams and workgroups that need to collaborate with each other.

LifeSize Team carries a U.S. list price of $7,999, more than 30 percent less than the vendor's flagship $12,000 LifeSize Room system for conference and boardrooms. The vendor in July said it had shipped more than 1,000 LifeSize Room systems since its release in December 2005.

Synnex has signed a deal to become the first U.S. distributor for Fujitsu Computer Systems' notebooks and tablet PCs.

The deal expands on Synnex's relationship with Fujitsu in Canada, according to David Strickland, vice president of product management at Synnex. Fujitsu previously sold its LifeBook notebooks and Stylistic Tablet PCs directly to solution providers in the United States, according to Synnex.

Fujitsu started talking internally about a distribution model roughly nine months ago, and it plans to keep direct relationships with its larger resellers and will transfer the accounts of lower-volume resellers to Synnex, said Bill King, executive vice president of sales at Fujitsu Computer Systems.

"We have a limited [amount] of channel development people in the field, and this allows us to focus on more higher-value partners," King said.

Fujitsu may look at additional distributors at a later date, King added. "We'll continue to reevaluate our channels, but initially we want to see how [Synnex] works for us," he said.

Fujitsu aims to increase its North American business from $3.5 billion to $10 billion by 2010 and believes an increased channel presence will help meet that goal, according to King.

Synnex has organized a training initiative around the Fujitsu products, including a Web seminar and face-to-face sessions. "You really can't be successful with a product like this unless you understand the product," Strickland said.