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Computer Associates International Inc. latest partnering effort ranks high on the degree-of-difficulty scale: build a channel for the company’s enterprise product set.

CA’s objective is to bring such products as its Unicenter systems manager, BrightStor storage management software, and eTrust security suite to a broader customer base. That means pursuing customers outside of CA’s typical sweet spot – large corporations.

Indeed, enterprise-class apps aren’t just for corporate behemoths anymore. Gary Quinn, CA’s executive vice president for partner advocacy, said business of all sizes has requirements for operations management, storage management, and security. CA covers its Global 2000 customers in that regard, but hasn’t fully addressed businesses in the 1,000 to 5,000 employee range.

CA now plans to create “a coverage model that enables us to reach those customers that need the same electricity and plumbing as the Fortune 10,” Quinn said, speaking metaphorically of essential IT infrastructure components.

To that end, CA in recent months has tapped value-added distributors to identify high-end solutions providers able to carry the enterprise ball. The company’s line up includes Access Distribution (formerly GE Access), Arrow Electronics, and Avnet Partner Solutions.

Quinn said such distributors represent the quickest way to develop a network of enterprise solution providers. “They know what they look like and what they are capable of doing,” Quinn said.

Don Tydeman, VP of product marketing at CA, called VADs (value-added distributors) “the foundation of our whole program.”

Historically, the task of developing an enterprise solution provider channel has not been an easy one for CA. Quinn cited an attempt a few years ago to develop a Unicenter program. “We cultivated high-end service provider partners … and ran head on into the direct sales force when we did that,” he said.

The difference today, Quinn said, is that CA has an organizational structure in place to minimize channel conflict. For example, a partner development group is now a part of CA’s direct sales force. That group is responsible for managing relationships with high-end solution providers, regional systems integrators, and geographic or global integrators, Quinn added.

Jeff Bawol, senior vice president and general manager of Avnet’s Enterprise Software and Storage Business Unit, has noticed a change in CA.

The distributor had worked previously with CA and Bawol believes the software house was not as fully engaged with the channel as it is today. He noted that CA’s interest in moving Unicenter through the channel captured Avnet’s attention. BrightStor, meanwhile, broadens Avnet’s storage software line, which Bawol says drives storage hardware sales.

CA is now is working with value-added distributors to develop marketing plans. For each distributor, marketing campaigns and partner recruitment efforts focus on a primary product line. Access, for example, leads with eTrust, Arrow with BrightStor and Avnet with Unicenter.

Those distributors, however, carry CA’s other enterprise products as well as products typically sold via broadline distributors – backup software, for instance. That way, a partner can acquire a comprehensive solution through a single distributor.

The aim is to make CA’s entire product portfolio available to high-end partners, noted Dan Schwartz, CA’s VP Partner Program Marketing.

Tune in next year to see if CA’s enterprise partner foray can tap a potentially lucrative market.