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Sun Microsystems announced a new element of its Partner Advantage program on August 21, that aims to put new hardware in the hands of its best resellers as quickly as possible, and give all its resellers an opportunity to acquire the latest technology from Sun for demonstration and proof-of-concept testing without having to write a check.

The Partner Growth Fund, announced by Sun at Avnet’s New Frontiers Conference in Colorado Springs , will put dollars into an “accrual account” for resellers based on a percentage of their sales to be credited toward the purchase of Sun hardware. The program will begin in September, and partners will begin to be able to use the funds to acquire hardware by December of this year.

Additionally, Sun executives announced that the company would “seed” the program by immediately moving to deliver certain new systems to its executive-level partners at no cost, to allow them to use the hardware for in-house or customer on-site demos.

“To kick start the program, we’re shipping systems at no cost to systems integrators, ISVs, and executive-level partners,” said Bill Cates, Sun’s senior director of global channel planning and programs, in an interview with ChannelInsider. One of the elements being shipped out is the Sun Blade 6000 chassis, to help partners start to demonstrate Sun’s blade technology to customers.

The program, said Cate, was in respse to resellers telling Sun that demonstration hardware was their most effective sales tool, . “It has the highest return in demand generation,” he said. “We think this investment into the channel will be near $100 million (in the next year).”

The program will credit resellers based on their level of membership in Sun’s Partner Advantage program, which Sun opened to resellers in July. Executive-level partners—the highest level of resellers, which Cate numbers at 150 worldwide—will earn a half-percent of all sales back as a credit toward Sun hardware. “Principal” partners, the next step down, will earn 0.4% of sales back into their accrual account. And associate partners, who work through distributors, will accrue credits through their distributors.

Previously, Sun’s resellers had access to a discount program for hardware for their own use. “But it hasn’t been that great,” said Cate. “We wanted to simplify the process. And we think the ROI (will justify it). “