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Sun Microsystems is adding two new enhancements for its channel partners–an online networking community for its Executive level partners and a web-based sales tool that calculates financial benefits for deploying solutions available to all its partners.

The invitation-only online community is designed to enable Sun’s top 125 VARs communicate with each other, letting them build relationships, form collaborative partnerships on deals, and communicate with Sun executives, says Melissa Eisenhart, director, Global Channel Communications.

The program is an extension of a conversation that started in January at an exclusive event for Sun’s Executive VARs at the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto, Calif.  Partners met with CEO Jonathan Schwartz during that event, and they asked Sun for a way to continue the dialog with the executives they met, according to Eisenhart.

"We believe this community will provide partners with the opportunity to build relationships with their peers, connect with Sun executives, and leverage their resources to help develop joint sales opportunities," Eisenhart says.

Sun has partnered with Ranius Corp. to provide the social networking platform for the Executive level partner community, which lets partners create a page for their companies to promote them.  The community also serves as a directory of members.

Sun may ultimately take its social networking partner experiment further by setting up a technical partner community.

Separately, Sun announced the Sun Value Platform, a tool that previously used by Sun’s own internal sales staff, will now be available to partners as well.  The online application lets partners quickly get answers for customers on total cost of ownership and the costs of delaying purchase decisions. Sun says the tool gives insights around infrastructure, staffing, performance and risk areas, and it is designed to give partners proof points to help increase deal size and reduce the sales cycle. The Sun Value Platform also includes information on power and cooling, floor space and carbon emissions.

"This tool allows you to be much more strategic in your relationship with customers," says Ade Olorunsola, technical marketing manager for Systems Technical Marketing at Sun. "You can move beyond being just a fulfillment channel"

Olorunsola says the tool is fairly intuitive, but help materials are available within the application, and if needed there is an online course available on how to use the tool. Sun is also available to help walk partners through the tool.