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John Varel appears to speak for most of the solution providers that do business with Access Distribution.

“I wish they carried more,” said Varel, chief executive officer of FusionStorm, San Francisco.

Access Distribution, a General Electric company based in Westminster, Colo., is a specialty distributor with a strong focus on Sun Microsystems. The company, which had its annual solution provider partner conference in mid-August, carries only 20 brands in its line card.

“There are certain vendors I need to complete almost every solution that they don’t carry. I’m left shopping around at the other distributors or going directly to the vendor. It would be a lot easier to get it all in one call.”

The message is a common one from Access resellers. The company’s line card is limited, intentionally, the distributor’s executives said, but partners still find it a hassle.

“We have a very narrow focus and we fully fund and fully execute everything we do,” said Anna McDermott, Access Distribution’s president and chief executive officer. “You can’t do that if you’re carrying a full line card. The me-too strategy of carrying a full line card is not our value proposition in the market.

“Picking up competitive solutions is a losing proposition for vendors, VARs and Access, she said. “It’s a commoditizing market,” she said. “Margins will never be better than the day we sign the new vendor.”

Instead, Access has followed a strategy, to be No. 1 or close in the very limited portfolio it carries—only 20 major vendors—and about 80 percent of revenue is derived from one heavyweight: Sun Microsystems.

The strategy allows VARs to find the best support and resources, and gives them better access to vendor partners such as Sun Microsystems, said Mike Hurst, vice president of Access’s Mature Technologies group.

As a result of this narrow-focus strategy, VARs have to find peripherals to the solutions from other sources, McDermott and Hurst acknowledged, but the competitive advantage they get with the core of the solution outweighs it.

VARs seem to agree with that assessment, even if many would like Access to carry more brands.

Mike Thompson would like to see more vendors, especially Oracle, in the Access line card to streamline his supply chain, but he follows a similar strategy in his own practice, Groupware technology, Campbell, Calif., a storage VAR and largely a Sun shop.

Groupware focuses on storage and has branched out into networks, databases and a few peripheral areas, but 90 percent of business comes from one vendor—Sun—and the bulk of the remainder comes from peripherals related to Sun.

“One throat to choke, one line of credit, would be infinitely easier to deal with, sure,” Thompson said. “But what do you get being a jack of all trades a master of none. What sort of relationships do you get with your vendors.

“We’ve lost customers who wanted to see what IBM or [Hewlett-Packard] had to offer,” he said. “But by managing all those technologies and relationships you lose something. It’s a business decision we made to stay focused.”