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Appliances have become a popular way to market an array of solutions from anti-spam to VPN security.

The appliance vendor’s marketing pitch typically argues that hardware and software bundles make sense for small businesses that, more often than not, lack robust IT support.

The box gets installed and does its job with a minimum of fuss. Those same vendors often cultivate channel partners to sell and deploy the product.

It stands to reason: Appliance vendors want loads of installations but generally lack the sales and engineering wherewithal to make that happen.

The channel possesses the small- and medium-business contacts and the geographic coverage vendors need.

This discussion leads us to Tacit Networks Inc., which offers partners a variation on the appliance theme.

The company offers a wide-area file services appliance. Tacit Networks doesn’t target SMB (small and midsize businesses), however.

Its market is corporate branch offices, a group that resembles small concerns in that it usually lacks dedicated IT resources.

Enterprises operate 5.5 million branch offices worldwide, Charles Foley, Tacit Network’s president, enthusiastically noted.

Those branches hold most of an enterprise’s employees—and their data.

On average, 90 percent of employees work outside their company’s headquarters, according to Nemertes Research LLC.

And three-quarters of an enterprise’s data lives outside the central data center, added Foley, citing research from Taneja Group and Enterprise Strategy Group.

Tacit Network’s software reduces wide-area network latency, allowing remote office to operate as if co-located at headquarters.

Foley used the analogy of being in a different floor in the same building. Remote users can access files from corporate servers at “local-like speed,” Foley said.

The appliance may be deployed in CIFS (Common Internet File System), NFS (Network File System ) or mixed file server environments.

Customers also have a choice of Linux or Windows implementations. Each appliance costs $7,500.

Tacit Networks recently added additional services to its file server base.

The new additions include print server capability, Web caching, Microsoft Exchange e-mail acceleration, and DNS (Domain Name System) and DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) services.

Tacit Networks unveiled the “stackable services” March 1.

A pro-channel policy.

Against this backdrop, Tacit Networks has established a pro-channel policy.

The company has 16 partners in the United States and rewards its sales force for working with it.

Tacit Networks has devised a channel-neutral compensation program for its sales people, Foley noted.

In addition to selling projects, partners also provide value-added services and integration into an organization’s overall storage hierarchy, Foley said.

Tacit Networks requires mandatory training for its resellers. The regimen includes a half-day of sales training and one-day to one-and-a-half-day sessions for engineers.

The company’s channel effort also includes lead generation and an opportunity registration program. The latter protects a partner’s investment in a sales situation.

“Channel are an important part of our go-to market,” Foley said.

To illustrate that point, he referred to the Tacit Networks’ sales force as a “dozen fire starters” around the country. The channel partner’s role is to “fan the flames,” he said.

If the market takes off as Foley suggests, the results could indeed be incendiary.