D-Link Banks On Channel To Push Into New Areas

Networking vendor D-Link last month celebrated its 20-year anniversary. Steven Joe, president and CEO of D-Link North America recently spoke with Infrastructure Editor Jennifer Hagendorf Follett about the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based company's push into the SMB market and the role channel partners will play in that effort. Edited excerpts follow:

CRN: What's the biggest difference when you look at the market today vs. what it was 20 years ago?

Joe: Speed, time to market. The product cycles used to last somewhere around three years. Now, the product cycles are much quicker. Product development and the complexity of products is much more complicated than it was 20 years ago.

CRN: What kind of shift does a legacy D-Link partner need to make to keep up with your SMB strategy?

Joe: Right now, we examine the market quite a bit and look for what solutions have viability in the marketplace. So I would say it's a two-way street. D-Link is improving its ability to communicate with the channel, and the channel needs to see what D-Link can offer. Right now, we're very much attuned to work with VARs on systems integration and development, to help them build the solutions that they see in the market. What we've done probably better is listen to the channel. Our business arena has grown quite a bit because our product line is tuned to what the SMB is looking for. Now, we haven't reached up into the enterprise level yet, but I would say that at least in the SMB realm, that is our prime focus, and we're really tuning our infrastructure, strategy and product line to meet that demand by really listening to that VAR.

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CRN: Is a push up into the enterprise on the road map?

Joe: No comment at this time.

CRN: What is the product area your business customers are most excited about right now?

Joe: We really see a lot of people focus on us in storage, xStack storage or iSCSI. ISCSI is considered the next revolution in storage technology, and with the need for greater storage, it's really the ability to take back from a proprietary standard into something all IS managers understand, and we think that's IP storage under iSCSI.

CRN: Is that the area in which you're seeing the most growth?

Joe: Well, that's a featured growth area. We see the most growth right now for us in switching. Right now, if you look at one side, moving into 10 [Gigabit Ethernet] storage, on the other side of that, you have to connect it to switching, so we have 10 Gig switching. So our switching xStack series is doing quite well.

CRN: Can you talk a bit about the channel strategy, where it sits right now, and what you'd like to see out of the channel over the rest of the year?

Joe: Right now, we have about 2,500 qualified VARs in our solutions program and probably around another 7,500 VARs who actively purchase D-Link products, so we're looking probably at an expansion of another 500 to 750 highly qualified VARs in the next 12 to 18 months. Even though we're known in the consumer realm, we think the business category is something we have a lot of strength in. We've been around 20 years now, we're a solid organization, financially strong, and our product line is quite broad, with the support teams on both the sales and service side that is constantly getting better year over year.

CRN: About a year ago, you spoke with CRN on your efforts to push into the SMB market. Has there been progress made on that front, and what's different about it now vs. what you were trying to do a year ago?

Joe: The product line got stronger. We took that time, the past couple of years, to focus on building the infrastructure and build the product line. As a company, we've been selling the VAR enterprise-based products overseas for all of these years, so it's not like we haven't done it. We've done it in other areas of the world. In the United States, we've started really from the bottom up and really started to build our brand from the consumer realm and now [are] moving back into the enterprise side, or at least the SMB side. [Since last year] we've doubled our VAR count and built all of these programs. In the past 12 months we've seen probably 100 percent growth in the business sector, so where we are now vs. where we were before is continually going forward, and if you look at the products, they are constantly getting better, moving into Layer 3, 10Gig, Power over Ethernet, for example, and storage. Those were all talked about then but [are] starting to be delivered now.