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Given the general move toward services of all types and stripes in the channel, you can’t help but wonder if the channel management techniques used by most vendors today are rapidly becoming obsolete.

Vendors have always tended to treat resellers as a breed apart from service providers. This typically resulted in a lot of conflict because resellers would find themselves in competition with service providers, who most often were telcos, that typically wanted to give away the box to gain the ongoing service revenue.

Today, many solution providers have begun to emulate that model with managed services, applications services and, of course, new-fangled hardware-as-a-service models that are also known as leasing.

Of course, the telcos have not stood still either because many of them now offer a complete array of installation and integrations services. In fact, most CLECs today, in an effort to differentiate themselves from their larger carrier rivals, look a lot more like a traditional solution provider than a telco.

The good news here is that a lot of traditional solution providers and the remodeled carrier crowd seem intent on working with each other more than ever. In fact, it’s not all that uncommon to find a solution provider reselling bandwidth while the carrier is simultaneously reselling a specialized service from the solution provider.

Given all this, now is the time for vendors to be thinking about reducing their channel management overhead by creating a single unified channel program that ultimately would make sure that there is a more level playing field across all the converging constituencies in the channel.

No doubt this is a big job fraught with all kinds of change that is usually received negatively, but in the long run channel chiefs need to make sure that the channel runs in the most efficient ways possible because otherwise solution providers will find themselves artificially at a disadvantage compared with other routes to market.

None of this has to happen overnight, and maybe the best thing a vendor can do is to throw elements of all its channel constituencies in a room and see what happens. After all, as various channels continue to converge, the best thing to remember is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at