CompTIA's Breakaway Brings Opportunity to PartnerBy Pedro Pereira | Print
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The Las Vegas event brings together VARs, integrators and service providers to find common ground and learn from each other's know-how.By the time the VARs and integrators who are attending the CompTIA Breakaway event from Aug. 3 to 5 leave Las Vegas, many of them will go home with plans for partnerships with other attendees.
Networking between CompTIA members is one of the primary goals of the annual event, organizers say. This year, 850 members of the IT trade association are expected to attend. Two-thirds of participants are VARs, integrators and service providers, according to organizers.
CompTIA is the IT world's largest trade association, boasting 20,000 members in about 100 countries.
Now, however, more and more channel companies are concluding that if they do not find a partner to meet a customer need for which they do not have the in-house skills, they are likely to lose the customer altogether.
"It's an absolute requirement to compete, broaden your business and diversify, and do it in an economical way," said David Raab, vice president of membership development at CompTIA, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. "The old phrase was 'coopetition'you're my partner but you're also my competitor."
During Breakaway, which will place at Caesar's Palace, CompTIA is facilitating business matchmaking through sessions where VARs, integrators and service providers will share technology know-how and business practices.
And what may prove equally valuable, if not more so, for some attendees is a customized software system the organization is setting up in wireless kiosks for use by attendees. Through the kiosks, attendees can request and accept or deny appointments with other Breakaway participants, Raab said.
Partnering has in fact become so commonplace at events such as Breakaway when significant numbers of IT companies get together that Perimeter Internetworking, based in Milford., Conn., has chosen the CompTIA gathering to launch its partner program.
Perimeter, a provider of managed services with a strong focus on security, has forged a number of partnerships during CompTIA events in the past, said senior vice president Mariano Dy-Liacco. Those partnerships, as well as others forged in the course of doing business, are the foundation for the company's partner initiative, called "Instant MSP Channel Program."
Perimeter will be recruiting VARs and integrators interested in providing managed security and other types of managed services to their customers. Partners may choose to co-brand the Perimeter offerings or simply resell them, Dy-Liacco said.
Managed services, through which the service provider takes over some or all of a customer's IT functions, gives channel companies a predictable billing mechanism. By delivering IT services through a utility model, the service provider bills the customer monthly for keeping systems up and running.
By partnering with a company such as Perimeter, a VAR or integrator does not have to make the infrastructure investment of building a NOC (Network Operations Center) from which customer systems are monitored remotely. Instead, the VAR or integrator effectively leases space at the NOC.
Long Island-based managed-services provider Invision, which runs a NOC at its Comack, N.Y., headquarters, is developing a partner program similar to Perimeter's. Invision executives say they are planning a launch in the fall.
Miami-based network integrator DataCorp has been using Perimeter's managed security services for about two years. The company decided to partner with Perimeter because it did not have in-house skills for the security services its clients were requesting, said Hugo Perez, one of DataCorp's principals.
"We believe in doing what we know best, which is network integration, consulting and support services, and look to partners for the rest," Perez said. "The key to my business, which is why Perimeter has embraced us, is we've become the trusted adviser to our clients."
The partnership with Perimeter has made it possible for DataCorp to gain customers in certain verticals, such as financial services and health care, which the company otherwise would not have gotten, Perez said. Those types of companies have specific security needs that DataCorp would not have been able to meet without the partnership.
Aside from business partnerships, Breakaway produces other rewards, said Darren McBride, CEO of Sierra Computers Ltd. and Highly Reliable Systems, based in Reno, Nev.
"The VARs I meet at Breakaway-type shows often become friends for life, even though we only e-mail or see each other once or twice a year," he said.
Meeting other VARs is one of two main benefits. The other is to meet vendors and learn about their latest products, even if the latter requires wading through the marketing hype, McBride added.
Expected to generate a fair amount of hype, and meaningful discussion, is the topic of security, with at least two panels scheduled to tackle the topic from different angles.
As end-user companies rush to comply with strict federal regulations on data protection and financial disclosures, demand for security has increased. High-profile security breaches that have occurred periodically have served to underscore the need.
Besides security, other topics of interest at the event are expected to be the convergence of voice and data, RFID (radio-frequency identification) and home automation, Raab said.
Addressing hot topics and putting VARs in touch with the vendors and distributors that supply these emerging technologies is another of the primary goals of the Breakaway events.
"A lot of our members continue to look for the next big thing," Raab said. Through its events and educational activities, CompTIA ends up "validating what the next big thing is," he added.
McBride said attending Breakaway provides two main benefits: meeting other VARs and forming lasting contacts, as well as getting face time with vendors to find out about their latest products.
"Unfortunately, the vendors often don't bring their best presenters, so the other VARs help you recognize the true gems and must-see products in the sea of hype," he said.