Antivirus and firewalls home in on the processor

September 10, 2010

fire

Surprise!

Intel Corporation just acquired McAfee on 20th August 2010.

What should we make of that? Does it mean the next generation of antivirus will come on a chip from Intel, well why not…doing that comes with a few advantages to Intel:

  • Because antiviruses need to be updated all the time, it means Intel will have a good reason to access and receive information from all the PCs using these new chips.
  • Maybe, but what if Intel designs a chip that carries out all of the incredibly complex algorithms and other heuristic calculations that invariably slow down our PCs? Rather like Macs, iPhones and iPads have always handled all display calculations on a separate chipset, leaving all the main processor gigaflops to the applications. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to hang around while our antivirus sucks up precious memory and processor power to check the file we just downloaded…

As the Cloud builds up steam, Intel are preparing for the thin, thin client and the powerful, powerful server because they know that security will be the defining factor in the success of Cloud Computing.

When we access all our files, music, videos, applications from the Cloud…through what will basically be a terminal, an Antivirus/Firewall chipset will be the only solution, because if you have to download it from the Cloud, who knows what new virus will come with it every morning…

Clever move, Intel!


Cloud sheds backup

July 26, 2010

Look out George! Next time, you might get hit by an EMC backup server falling out of a cloud.

just missed the piano

Just before the piano fell

Companies seem to have voted with their feet and EMC recently announced they are pulling their “Cloud backup  service” Atmos out of the Cloud because not enough customers are interested.

Why on earth would one need Cloud backup if one has Cloud applications!? In fact, come to think of it, EMC should be offering the exact opposite: old fashioned physical backup for Cloud applications…It just goes to show that Cloudwashing isn’t enough. Before you put something in the cloud and offer it to your clients, one would be advised to check whether there is any demand for it.


Back to the future with IBM?

July 26, 2010

From system370-168 to zEnterprise

An IBM 370-168 mainframe, state of the art in the early 80's

Should we be calling IBM Big Green?

So here we are back to 40 years ago when IBM’s revenue mainly came from renting computer power to customers who connected their thousands of 5250 or 3270 terminals to mainframes using unbelievably slow modems that were each the size of a small desktop computer.

At the time, I was a Computer Science student and spent some time as an intern at IBM France. I participated in installing what was then the largest mainframe in France: an IBM 370/168 (it later became the zSeries) that had a whopping 512 Megabytes of RAM (yes kids…512Mb…stop laughing please…) and stacks of 3330 removable hard disks that could each store 200Mb of data on 8 platters (stop LOL).

Guess what: IBM has just announced they are reviving their System z strategy with the zEnterprise 196.And nobody is laughing this time.

What has changed?: it has 3 Terabytes of RAM,up to 96 processors, reams of blades and can manage loads of P and X servers. IBM says 30% of all servers are running Linux, and that the zEnterprise should soon support Windows clients. 40 years ago, the internal bus of an average computer probably ran slower than today’s high speed ADSL, SDSL etc…(why have you stopped laughing?)

Although total cost of acquisition (TCA) will be higher then for servers, TCO is lower within 3 years. Not to speak of the green side of things, these machines are much more energy efficient than a pile of servers.

If you still think Cloud Computing is a pie in the sky, think again because IBM certainly want to be at the forefront of the next paradigm shift.


Ready, steady,…go channel! Part 4

July 30, 2008

How will you measure your business?

Selling though a channel fundamentally changes your access to market intelligence. If you are not prepared for it, you will lose visibility of where your products are going, who is buying your products, what are they purchasing, how many and when etc…Channel partners are usually happy to share most of this information with you, provided they are certain it will not be used to play against them. If they don’t trust you, they will share the information after the sale has occurred; if they trust you, they often involve you in the sales process and always inform you of what they are working on. It all comes down to whether your sales commissions are “route-to-market-neutral”, which means that the sales people get a commissions regardless of who invoiced the customer.

  1. Does your distribution contract require POS (Point of Sales) reporting? This is something you can insist on.
  2. Most distributors expect to see their reporting costs paid for (0.5%)
  3. Do you know what reports you need and how often you would like them?
  4. Have you developed or acquired the tools to collect and analyse the information
  5. Have you identified the people who will be responsible for producing the market intelligence?

Ready, steady,…go channel! Part 3

July 1, 2008

Part 3: How will you roll-out your plan?

Working through a channel doesn’t mean you can just relax and wait for it all to happen. On the contrary, your initial efforts will need to be significant if you want your channel sales to take off.

Build the right team to work with your channel 

  1. Consider recruiting an experienced channel manager rather than promoting one of your direct sales people
  2. If you can afford it, create a channel marketing position
  3. You can adjust your order management team
  4. Channel partners are good at using on-line tools. Are yours ready?

Is your finance organization ready for a different business model?

  1. You will be collecting larger amounts with different payment terms and different payment “habits”. Resellers are often strapped for cash…
  2. You will be paying out money or making credits in the form of Co-op advertising support or Market Development Funds. This doesn’t happen in a direct model
  3. You might need to pay finder fees to people you aren’t actually trading with such as Influencers (this concept is one of the most difficult for financial departments to cope with)

Can your marketing policy and organisation handle the requirements of your channel strategy?

  1. You probably need to re-balance your marketing budget
  2. Your partners will expect support through co-operative and market development funds (Co-op and MDF in channel lingo)
  3. At some point, you will need to build your brand and product awareness in the channel, should you plan a Marcom budget for this?
  4. How will you help your channel promote your products on their web sites?

If you actually ship stuff:

  1. Check your packaging (cartons, cases, pallets, containers, etc…)
  2. Check your part–numbers (UPC codes are sufficient)
  3. Does your price list provide for volume orders?
  4. Are your logistics ready for a change of pace?
  5. Do need the logistics you had up to now?

If you sell software:

 Can your systems report by whom the revenue was generated

If you provide services

Can your channel partners resell them (do they have a part number)?


Ready, steady,…go channel! Part 2

June 26, 2008

Part 2: What is your plan?

 
  

 

 

 

 

Building a channel requires a long term commitment. You need to know where you are starting from and most of all, where you want to go. Pending that, you will be able to prepare for some of the key issues you will need to address on the way. Continuity and consistency are key to a solid relationshipHave you thought through and documented short, medium and long-term plans?   

 

  1. Will you move directly to a full indirect model? (no more end user invoicing).
  2. Do you plan to make that move in the coming years

Is your sales compensation policy compatible with indirect sales model

  1. Your direct sales staff must not lose-out if a customer buys from a channel partner. Otherwise they will play against your channel and your partners will walk away
  2. Your channel partners must not see your direct sales force as the enemy

Have you thought through your total pricing and discount policy

  1. Benchmark it against your competition’s
  2. Do you have a pricing and discount policy that will encourage your new partners to reduce your own costs (that is why you share part of your margin with them)
  3. Build a realistic value proposition that your Account Managers will be able to defend in front of a seasoned reseller principal

“Right-size” your channel recruitment strategy:

  1. Don’t go berserk and recruit every partner you can find
  2. How many partners can you handle, should you recruit a distributor?
  3. Should you recruit one or several distributors?

 


Ready, steady,…go channel! Part 1

June 18, 2008

Can you tick all the boxes before jumping into the channel?

 

In the last 10 years, waning ICT growth in the enterprise segment has forced most actors to re-examine their routes to market in order to make sure their products and services are available where their prospective customers expect to find Preparing to swim the Channel...them and where the real growth is. Without necessarily taking a “bottom-up” approach, the whole ICT industry has come to the conclusion that it would only be able to access certain segments via an indirect channel. This is because average size companies are buying a lot of ICT products and services but they rely on their channel partners to act as an outsourced ICT department. Certain major IT manufacturers have recently made their “coming out”, confirming a strategy they weren’t necessarily admitting to in the recent past.

 

This short series is built from experience and attempts to list a number of areas you need to have thought about before you jump into the channel.

 

Part 1: Do you have a strategy?

For a start-up business, this is a founding decision and you will be building your whole business model on your route to market strategy. But if you are already selling direct, you need to make sure this fundamental move is not going to unbalance your whole business, resulting in a potential collapse of your overall sales and often causing frustration within your own organisation and amongst your newfound partners and existing customers.

 

  • Why are you making this move?
    • Can you give your prospective partners a good reason for the change?
    • Does everyone in the company understand the reasons?
  • What is your vision?
    • Your new partners will be reassured to see that you actually have one
    • Working with partners requires long term investments on both sides
    • If your potential partners don’t trust you they won’t play

 

Coming soon: What is your plan? 


Will Dell’s channel strategy be successful…who gets the last laugh?

February 13, 2008

laughing-hyena.gifThe industry is all excited about Dell’s announced channel strategy. People are questioning whether its a shrewed move…well I think it is!

The fascinating thing as that people missed the signs two years ago. Check this out the article referred to is only 18 months old and the journalist was saying that the attempt was doomed, that Dell would never formalize a channel strategy  because it “owns the customer“.

I believe Dell are right and they will succeed, simply because they recognise that they can’t own all the customers. This is great news for the ICT Channel since it confirms in no uncertain terms that Vendors cannot access certain categories of customers without partnering with the Reseller community. How many predictions have we seen in the last ten years, announcing the end of the Channel, the end of the Distributor, and so on…in fact, what we are seeing is a real coming of age of our industry.

As technologies converge, the Channel is diverging. Today, channel partners have a much more precise understanding of their own business and are more selective when it comes to deciding what products and services they will provide to their customers. The Vendor is now just a supplier amongst others and if his products don’t meet the channel’s customers’ expectations, they will look for something else.

The added value provided by the channel is becoming increasingly important to certain categories of End Users who see their channel partner as an outsourced IT department and this is where Dell needs the channel. And guess what: that market segment is where all the growth is for the years to come.

I happen to know that Dell have done their homework, making sure there will be no conflict between a nascent channel and their existing sales organization. Agreed, they will be circumventing the Distributor, offering a full financing scheme directly to their channel partners, enabling the partners to absorb the complex payment terms imposed by customers in certain countries such as France, Italy, etc…

Dell have a solid range of products and a solid reputation they have built despite the initial criticism. They also have a solid determination: those of you that have been around long enough will remember…everybody laughed when Dell appeared and said they would sell direct!

As the French say: “Rira bien qui rira le dernier!” (The last one to laugh will really laugh)


Why does the Channel think Vendors don’t care?

February 1, 2008

“Everything is just fine!”I just got back from moderating two interesting workshops at DISTREE XXL 2008 in Barcelona, an event where vendors from around the world get to meet distributors from 80 countries.

One of the workshops I ran was a discussion about how an increasing number of vendors, both manfacturers and software vendors are trying to convince their channel partners to sell Services as a Product. As usual, one of the participants was particularly outspoken and had strong opinions on everything, smothering the group with his views. In particular, he seemed convinced that the software publisher (whose name I will withold) represented by a young lady who had flown all the way from the northwest of the USA (get the clue?…) absolutely didn’t care about the channel.

It so happens the reason a significant number of representatives of this vendor were present was precisely to have discussions with as many channel partners as possible to find out how they should develop new Services sold WITH and THROUGH the Channel.

For having spent many years managing Channel operations with major vendors (and many additional years advising vendors on how they can better work with their partners), I know only too well that vendors don’t hate the channel! On the contrary, they seek their feedback, their partnership (and for once, that word really qualifies) to grow business in a mutually beneficial manner.

Pushing Vendors away results in the vendors having to find new solutions and if your Channel doesn’t want to work with you, there aren’t that many other solutions to sell your products to the end user than to go direct or build a new Channel.

At a time when large companies are looking at the financial world melt away like an iceberg (remember…90% is not visible), when emerging markets and countries are going to need to bail us out as we start sinking, vendor survival is becoming increasingly dependant on the Small and Medium Businesses of the world. SME and “Mid Market” businesses rely on their IT Partners, namely the Channel who are in this case their outsourced IT department. Vendors know this only too well and when they tell the Channel they want to work with them, the Channel should listen and not push them away.

Of course, there are clumsy vendors, of course there are stupid territory account managers, but it is too easy and too dangerous to blame a vendor with trying to cheat the channel. Exactly like with the world economy, we are all in the same boat and the channel should not ignore the vendors just because they are big…we all need each other, its called a symbiosis.


Is the I.T. channel suffering from the E.T. syndrome?

November 29, 2007

human-touch.jpg For many years (ever since I saw the film E.T.) I have believed that distance makes people more aware of what is going on back “home”.

As a Reseller (some say Partner), when you are exposed to the daily difficulties and dangers of life in the “Field”, trying to sell the right solution to your customer, you quickly become painfully aware of what your favorite Vendors should be doing to make you want to sell more of their products.

The frustrating part is that although you have often spent time and energy explaining these simple things to the Vendor’s Channel management team, you are either faced with empathy (and therefore frustration because your contacts cannot help you due to the bureaucratic nature of today’s global channel programmes) or a clear lack of understanding of what seems so simple to you.

As Channel Consultants, we then get hired to tell our Clients what they have already been told by their Partners:

  • Channel Partners don’t all want Leads if they’re not qualified – but some do
  • They don’t all want rebates (as opposed to upfront discount) but some do
  • They don’t all want the Vendor to get involved with their customers – but some do
  • They don’t all want to be able to service the Vendor’s products – but some do
  • They don’t all want online sales training that takes their sales people off the road for 15 hours per month – but some do
  • …etc…
  • …etc…

Do you get the picture? Abraham Maslow, a famous motivational theorist once commented: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.” We’ve all heard that one before…

So where did I get this E.T. thing from? Very simple: Vendor’s “Partners” often feel like E.T.: they feel they have been abandoned out in the field, they have been trying to phone home but just can’t get through to someone who will hear them out.

These days, any FMCG Marketing company is capable of sending a personalized direct mail piece to each one of 25,000 households in a database but our Channel Marketing organizations still seem to be trying to cram square channel pegs into round channel program holes, relentlessly applying Henry Ford’s famous “…you can have the Ford T in any color as long as its black…”

Instead of using the phenomenal power and flexibility provided by the hardware and software designed by our own industry, we are regressing, taking people out of the field to reduce costs, thus eliminating the only flexible stage of our relationship with our Channel Partners.

So is everybody doing it wrong? Thankfully not, but when you start probing your partners about who does it right, the same names always come up. And what they are doing is pretty basic: the empower the people who listen to what the Channel wants and they design sufficiently flexible programs and processes to delight more Channel Partners who can pick and choose what they like.

Easy!