Intel Sweetens Pot For Partners At ISS

"We spent our time addressing the evolving business model, particularly evolutions in the supply chain," said Eric Thompson, Intel's North America channel director. "These days, small form factor products have more of an ODM flavor to them, so they are more built out upstream in the supply chain. That means our partners need better relationships with the Taiwanese and Chinese ODMs."

Thompson said Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel invited more of those East Asian manufacturers "than ever before" to ISS, historically a conference for North American and Latin American system integrators and whitebox partners.

Intel's new products for 2010 include its fourth-generation vPro platform for business PCs, the just-released Xeon 5600 series of 32-nanometer dual-socket server processors, an entry-level 40GB, solid state drive (SSD) priced at just $125, and a next-generation whitebook platform formerly code-named Spring Peak.

Those products are all driving opportunities for Intel's channel partners, according to Thompson. And the chip giant has sweetened the pot in specific ways for partners integrating Intel's latest hardware in the systems they build and sell, he added.

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Intel's "56" promotion is a case in point. Launched at ISS, the promotion is a $56 rebate on any Intel-branded server motherboards or systems that support Xeon 5600 series processors or the previous generation of Xeon 5500 series chips released a year ago. This is on top of Intel dropping prices on 70 percent of its 5600-series boards by between 10 and 15 percent, according to Thompson.

The company is also expanding its Intel Technology Provider program, a three-year-old initiative for resellers of IT hardware, often from global OEMs like Hewlett-Packard, Dell or Levnovo, that don't necessarily build or integrate systems with validated building block components like Intel's traditional system builder channel.

"We are looking to build [the Technology Provider program] up and augment it with the most capable solution providers in this space," Thompson said. "We do find that these solution providers do have a big interest on behalf of their own customers in where Intel's technology is going, especially with things like vPro."

Thompson wasn't specific about the benefits to VARs participating in the Technology Provider program beyond information-sharing about new technology. In the months to come, it should be interesting to see how Intel develops the program, in light of archrival Advanced Micro Devices' own push into cultivating resellers of third-party AMD-based systems with the recent addition of a commercial partner track to its revamped Fusion Partner Program.

Intel is also shepherding its channel towards building what it calls "differentiated desktops," Thompson said. These include Atom-based nettops, high-performance systems, vPro-based business PCs and media-rich "lifestyle" systems -- the last two of which represent product segments that Intel claims promise a 6 percent and 15 percent compound annual growth rate, respectively.

Finally, the chip giant also used the ISS showcase to pitch partners on Intel-validated building blocks in such product segments as SSDs, RAID storage and networking hardware as "great differentiators for channel customers."