Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Sun Microsystems’ channel partners said it was time for a makeover, and the company followed through.

On Sept. 7 it began rolling out the first wave of a refurbished channel program, Partner Advantage, which Sun Microsystems Inc. executives say they expect will provide VARs and ISVs with a more customized relationship with the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor.

The first wave, exclusively for ISVs, uses a tiered system of involvement allowing partners to work at their level and receive benefits based on their level of engagement, the company said.

“The more you do with Sun, the more you get back, is the best way to summarize it,” said Steven Borich, Sun’s vice president of partner marketing.

“We’ve enabled partners with the tools and infrastructure so that as they see more Sun business, they invest more in Sun and get more from Sun.”

The program provides different levels of resources—sales, marketing and access to products—based on four tiers of involvement related to sales figures.

A program for VARs is still being designed, but should be similar in shape, if not scope, to the ISV program, said Marsha Cavanagh, Sun’s executive director of partner programs and services. It can be expected by early to mid-2006, she said.

Click here to read more about Sun’s new channel programs.

David Auerweck, vice president of corporate development at Helio Solutions in Sunnyvale, Calif., said his company has made great use of Sun’s resources in the now expired iForce partner program, but found the three categories—regional, national and corporate resellers—were limiting for some. A tiered system should provide more advantage to all partners, who sell at different levels, he said.

“We made great use of Sun’s incentives because we made a big commitment [to the company],” he said. “But not everyone can make the biggest commitment. If they can take advantage of the resources at different levels, that would make a difference for some VARs.”

Sun is prepared to invest millions into its partner relationships, Borich said, providing $250,000 in marketing, deployment, training and certification resources, including 20 brand-new programs. All iForce incentives also continue.

While the new program is promising, some VARs may find the same old problems, said Douglas Nassaur, CEO of True North Technology Inc. in Atlanta. His approval will wait until he sees the specifics of the program for VARs, he said.

“Sun has left a divide between software and hardware sellers,” Nassaur said. “We put a lot of money into the proper certifications for Sun programs, but more and more of our money is not coming from software sales; it’s coming from software services. We’re not seeing the incentives because we’re not getting the sale credits.”

“They need to decide what prominence their software has in the company,” he said, “and they need to provide a niche for it in the channel program.”

Partner Advantage will include more interaction with partners, Borich said, through three worldwide call centers and better partner classifications, providing “a single point of contact … so we know where they fit and what they need.”

The ISV program also includes a vertical component, which will provide invited ISVs with greater resources for infiltrating 11 priority markets, Cavanagh said.

The VAR program is still being “workshopped,” with discussions continuing with resellers worldwide, Cavanagh said, and will likely include lessons learned from the ISV rollout.