26 Alternative Products VARs Should Know

Solution providers partnering with "we try harder" alternative vendors are delivering improved Return On Investment (ROI) for their customers and higher margins for themselves by opening their eyes and looking beyond the market leaders.These alternative products stand out for their ability to deliver best in class ROI for solution providers and their customers.


NEC's 22-inch widescreen display provides roughly the same work area as two smaller-sized LCD screens, which allows users to work in multiple and side-by-side application windows. The thin frame design and integrated speakers save desk space, and the new Eco-Mode helps extend the life of the display and conserve energy by allowing the user to adjust the OSD.

"For NEC specifically they're not going to be the best price, but there's a customer base that demands it because they're known as the crme de la crme of high quality monitors," says Todd Swank, director of marketing for Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder and solution provider Nor-Tech.

Price: $589.99


LG's 26-inch high definition LCD monitor boasts a 1920 x 1080p display capability, and includes LG Simple Link, an enhanced contrast ratio of 5,000:1 and advanced TruWide Viewing Angle technology. The affordable price makes this LCD a competitive buy in a cutthroat display market. The LG 26LC7D retails for $799.95.


As Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple begins to pick up steam in the business world, the company is continuing to launch innovative and downright sexy products like the MacBook Air, Apple's optical drive-less, 3 lb. wonder that manges to fit an 80 GB hard drive into its 0.76-inch frame.

With a full-size keyboard and a 13.3-inch backlit LCD, the MacBook Air is making inroads with business travelers looking for something light but powerful, giving VARs another tool to court customers who are on-the-go. The MacBook Air retails for $1799.


Toshiba's quality and durability make it an alternative vendor turn to rather than market leaders Dell and HP, and the company recently launched its Satellite X250 notebook with Intel's cutting-edge Pennryn processor. With dual NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processing units, this notebook is perfect for gamers and graphics professionals. Toshiba's Satellite notebooks start at $1999.


WatchGuard recently released the latest version of its network security software for its Firebox X Peak, Core and Edge unified threat management appliances, touting improved security capabilities, enhanced connectivity, increased throughput and robust network administrative tools. The Seattle-based company recently developed version 10, designed with a host of new features to alleviate connectivity challenges, enhance security, and provide administrators with new levels of network security visibility.

Version 10 in particular addresses businesses with an increasingly mobile workforce.

Firebox X Peak e-series (left) is targeted toward the midtier or lower enterprise segment, while the Firebox X Edge e-series is geared toward the smaller SMB market. The Firebox X Core, identical to the Peak, continues occupy the SME space.


Designed specifically for SMBs, Check Point's Safe@Office 500 unified threat management appliances offer a strong defense against threats that include hacking, denial of service, phishing, viruses, Trojans and other malware. The Safe@Office VPN can access your network remotely and securely without compromising network security. The UTM appliance is available with an integrated secure wireless access point (500W models only) and with an advanced ADSL/ADSL2+ modem (ADSL models only).

One VAR said that he signed up 100 companies with Safe At Office products last year. "It's just been a resounding success. It has such a broad set of features. It really has something for everyone," said Chris Phillips, CheckPoint VAR.

Plus, he added, it's user friendly, has very intuitive gooey, it's packaged nicely and it's bright orange.


ShoreTel Communications recently launched its ShorePhone IP 565g, a new six-line IP phone. Priced at $599, the handset offers a high-resolution color display, Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and Bluetooth headset integration. The new phone is part of ShoreTel's VoIP product line, which some solution providers say offers better margins, is easier to install and produces higher overall customer satisfaction than systems from rivals such as Cisco Systems. Westron Communications, a Carrollton, Tex.-based partner, typically sees margins above 20 percent on ShoreTel deals, and its customers love the products, said Dave Casey principal at Westron. "Our customers give us tons of referrals because they like the technology," Casey said.


Ease-of-use and the ability to work in heterogeneous environments are the chief attractions of NovaStor Corp.'s NovaBackup data protection solution and Novanet network backup software. And Lorne Reimer, sales exec at channel partner Microtrends, says working with NovaStor for license and maintenance agreement renewals is a snap.


Channel partners say FalconStor Software's Continuous Data Protection appliances offer resellers the leading-edge they'd expect from a startup, but with a mature channel program. The product is particularly effective for replicating data from remote offices to a central repository.


The Summit X250 series fixed configuration switches offer versatility and performance at 10/100 speeds and come in 24- and 48-port models to support mission-critical applications.

The Summit X250 lists for just under $2,000 for the 24-port model and just under $3,000 for 48 ports. Comparable switch offerings from Cisco System's Catalyst line can run anywhere from 25 percent more to double the cost.

Ray Nelson, CTO of Whippany, N.J.-based solution provider Consultedge, said when it comes to Extreme's switching offerings "the bang for the buck is 10 times better what Cisco can offer."


When it comes to wireless networking, Cisco is the heavy-weight champ. But contenders like Nortel Networks, which offers access points and secure switching options, climb in the ring to let VARs duke it out for a chance at the title.

"In any product category the second tier manufacturers pricing-wise are going to be less expensive than Cisco," said Josh Bailey, founder of Norcross, Ga.-based solution provider Layer 3 Communications. "Cisco can charge what they want and get away with that as the market leader."

Pictured here is the Nortel WLAN Security Switch 2382, which lists for $12,995, a much lighter weight class than comparable offering from the champs, which offer a solution that costs upwards of three times more.


3Com's recently released Multi-Service Router (MSR) combines routing, switching, security, voice and VPN, among other functions, into one box. The MSR 30-40, pictured here, lists for just more than $3,000, while a similarly configured Cisco box will come in at closer to $7,000.

"It's nice to have a couple of different options," said Sean Johnson, business development manager for Hayes Computer Systems, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based solution provider, of offering 3Com gear as an alternative. "Sometimes customers demand something else. Sometimes they can't afford Cisco. Why would we miss out on business because we don't offer an alternative?"


The d2 Quadra Hard Drive is one of several external desktop and mobile data storage devices from LaCie that VARs look to for alternatives to products from market leader Seagate. Loaded with key interfaces like eSATA, FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0, the Neil Poulton-designed, Hitachi-OEMed d2 Quadra offers universal connectivity to PCs and Macs as well as a 16MB cache, advanced 3-level power management, bootability and professional backup software. The d2 Quadra starts at $179.95 for 320GB and also comes in 500GB ($219.95), 750GB ($299.99) and 1TB ($519.99) flavors.

Tyler Dikman, CEO of Tampa, Fla.-based CoolTronics, loves LaCie's Hitachi connection: "We do a lot of Seagate, but I like Hitachi. On external drives, we use LaCie, and LaCie uses Hitachi drives, so there you go."


If you're looking for a price-for-performance alternative to external data storage from Seagate, then Western Digital is the way to go, says Patrick Derosier, co-owner of CPU Guys in Hanson, Mass. Western Digital wins praise for products like the My Book Premium Edition II, which offers 2TB of triple-interface storage in a dual-drive system for $679.99. The Lake Forest, Calif.-based vendor has put a combination of FireWire 400/800 and RAID striping in this box, yielding speed for video editing and an extra-responsive Photoshop scratch disk for those complex rendering tasks. Plus, the packaged RAID Wizard software from Western Digital gets owners up and running quickly.


Perhaps one of the most widely used defenses for spam, virus, phishing and spyware attacks, the Barracuda Spam Firewall is an integrated hardware and software solution that leverages 12 defense layers to protect e-mail servers in both large enterprise and small business environments. It offers comprehensive protection against spam, virus, spoofing, phishing, spyware, and DoS attacks. It's also compatible with all email servers, and can fit into nearly any business environment from 10 to 200,000 employees. And a single Barracuda Spam Firewall can handle up to 30,000 active e-mail users, with multiple units that can be clustered together for increased capacity.

The solution is touted as the #1 most widely used spam filtering appliance and has been the recipient of numerous industry honors. But the real test is what VARs say about it. Overall, partners say that the BSF400 is both easy to use and affordable, which gives sit a leg up as an alternative spam filter/AV solution. "It's very straightforward,' said Shane Knigge, Barracuda partner. "The console is easy to understand (for end users), even if you haven't had cross training in the specifics."


This little bundle actually combines technology from two alternative VoIP vendors: hardware from D-Link and software from Microsoft. The system is built on Microsoft's Response Point IP-PBX software, which it sells through several OEM partners, including D-Link. D-Link's version, which debuted in November, is dubbed VoiceCenter and is aimed at small businesses with up to 50 users. A starter pack, which includes a base unit, analog telephone adapter (ATA) and five phones, is priced below $2,500. Strictly on price, that gives it an advantage over Cisco's Smart Business Communications System, which starts at $699 per seat and is also aimed at small businesses. Cisco's offering does come with more bells and whistles, but for customers hung up on cost, VoiceCenter offers an attractive option.


Samsung launched the CLP 660ND to compete in the high-end color laser printer market, dominated by heavyweight HP.

The CLP 660ND boasts 22 page per minute capabilities in both color and black and white and integrates a 533 MHz processor and 128 MB of memory, expandable to 640 MB. It can print about 80,000 pages per month, about 20,000 more than the competition, according to Samsung. The CLP 660ND starts at $699.


Lexmark's C935dn color laser work group printer is ideal for enterprises with wide-format needs. The C935 has duplex printing and advanced finishing options and starts at $3,199.

For $4,399 you can add a 520-sheet drawer and an additional 256 MB meory. The top of the line model, the C935nd comes with a 40+ GB hard drive, 3 520-sheet drawers and the extra memory.


Netgear was the talk of this year's International Consumer Electronics Show when it debuted a host of networking products based on the Wireless-N Wi-Fi standard. Among them, the 5-GHz Wireless-N HD Access Point/Bridge (WNHDE111). This bad buy creates a 5-GHz Wireless-N access point by connecting to an existing router or gateway and features more wireless channels, less interference and better connections by using the 5-GHz Wireless-N band. It can also boost wireless performance of notebooks with embedded Wireless-N and adds automatic QoS to prioritize voice and video traffic. It also features "Push 'N' Connect" functionality that used the Wi-Fi Protected Setup standard and eliminates the need to input security password keys. All this for $129.99.


Many VARs agree that Secure Computing's Sidewinder Network Gateway Security appliances are some of the best self-defending firewall/VPN security solutions out there. The device consolidates all major security functions under a single management interface, combining at least five individual security systems into one appliance. It also touts reputation-based global intelligence, a gigabit-speed application layer firewall, next generation intrusion prevention with ASIC acceleration, more than 200,000 attack signatures, real-time event monitoring and reporting and the capability to stop zero-hour attacks. Plus, for more than 11 years, it's the only firewall without a CERT advisory.


The SATABeast Xi from Nexsan Technologies, Woodland Hills, Calif., is a high density, energy efficient storage solution built for the Apple Xserve and Mac Pro markets. It delivers up to 42TB of storage in 4U of rack space, and handles both Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity.

SONICWALL NSA SERIES PRODUCT LINE - NSA 3500, 4500, 5000 Built on a high-speed multi-core processing platform, The SonicWALL Network Security Appliance (NSA) Series enables deep packet inspection without adversely impacting the performance of mission-critical networks and applications. The NSA Series applies next-generation Unified Threat Management (UTM) against a comprehensive array of attacks, combining intrusion prevention, anti-virus and anti-spyware with the application-level control of SonicWALL Application Firewall. With advanced routing, stateful high-availability and high-speed VPN technology, the NSA Series adds security, reliability, functionality and productivity to branch offices, central sites and distributed mid-enterprise networks, while minimizing cost and complexity.


Talk about going Green. Dell's new PowerEdge M-Series blade is allowing businesses to save big money on power and cooling. Dell claims the PowerEdge M-Series consumes up to 19 percent less power and achieves up to 25 percent better performance per watt than the HP BladeSystem c-Class. Give Dell credit. This green machine packs a lot of power in an energy efficient package.

SUN SPARC ENTERPRISE T5220 SERVER Everyone knows that server virtualization is hotter than sliced bread. So what's the best server bar none to take on the virtualization beast? Let's just say you'd have a hard time coming up with a better virtualization work horse than the Sun SPARC Enterprise T5220. Sun calls it the fastest server ever designed for virtualization. It's powered by the UltraSPARC T2 processor with up to eight cores and 64 threads. The server features over 1250 systems/rack, 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology and I/O directly on the chip. Need more reasons to get on board? How about unbeatable performance per watt, built-in open source and free virtualization capabilities with Solaris Containers and Logical Domains (LDoms). Priced starting at $14,995, this is a virtual bargain.


The Hitachi Universal Storage Platform V has gotten high marks from solution providers for technology innovation. Hitachi partners say the heterogeneous virtualization and thin provisioning capabilities beat rival EMC hands down. Baseline pricing for the Hitachi USP V starts at approximately $250,000 (hardware only, minimum cache and disks) and can go as high as several million dollars. It may seem pricey, but when you look at ROI there is no better buy than the USP V.


Look out VMware. Here comes Citrix XenServer 4.1, which provides enhanced data storage virtualization. The new XenServer release includes more than 50 enhancements including support for storage appliances from Network Appliance. That's a big deal given NetApp's big footprint in the storage space. Score one for Citrix.