Vendors Get Low Grades When It Comes to Managed Services

When you consider the number of platitudes that channel executives tend to throw around about their support for the channel and the actual amount of vendor support there is for managed services today, you can’t help but wonder if most of the vendors really are that clueless or just can’t seem to get out of their own way to actually do something meaningful.

The lack of vendor support for solution providers that have embraced the managed services business model is being brought into sharp relief after Cisco last month formally announced its managed services program.

To its credit, the Cisco program is more thought-out than anything else out there from the rest of the vendor community, so you should probably expect to see every major vendor crib aspects of the program. But it still took Cisco the better part of two years to build out a program, by which time the company discovered that the managed services model had already taken hold across a broad swath of its base of channel partners.

In the meantime, the only other vendors beyond the purveyors of specific managed services platforms such as Level Platforms and N-Able that have been actively helping solution providers embrace managed services have been distributors such as Ingram Micro; IBM; printer vendors such as Lexmark and Xerox; and, to a lesser degree, security vendors such as SonicWall, McAfee and Symantec.

There has also been some lukewarm support for the concept from Microsoft, mostly in the form of press releases about statements of future directions, and Intel, in the form of white papers about the value of its V-Pro management technology. But by and large the rest of the vendor and distributor channel community, including Hewlett-Packard, AMD, Oracle, Juniper, Nortel, EMC, Tech Data and Arrow, have all remained pretty much mute on the subject.

Pointer Click here to find out which 12 companies are driving the IT managed services model.

Ironically, Dell might be doing more to promote the concept of managed services in the channel by first acquiring SilverBack Technologies, a provider of a managed services platform, and then significantly promoting the concept of managed services around the Vista platform to end users. The former move is part of Dell’s nascent effort in the channel, while the latter effort benefits solution providers by at least promoting the concept of managed services in the marketplace.

Of course, a large part of Dell’s effort to promote managed services around Vista is paid for by Microsoft, which oddly enough can’t seem to muster the same level of enthusiasm for promoting the managed services offerings of the channel partners that compete tooth and nail with Dell everyday. By implication this would seem to indicate that Dell is tapping into some marketing fund for Microsoft’s OEM partners, while in terms of Microsoft’s financial affections the channel partners seem to maintain their red-headed stepchild status.

All in all, if you had to attach grades to the level of support that solution providers are receiving from the vendor community when it comes to managed services, it would probably looks something like this:

    A: Ingram Micro
    B: Avnet, Lexmark, Xerox, SonicWall, McAfee, IBM
    C: Intel, Dell
    D: Microsoft, Symantec
    F: HP. AMD, IBM, Juniper, Nortel, EMC, Tech Data, Arrow

Moving to embrace managed services is no easy task. It requires a solution provider to change just about every aspect of its business model. But when it’s all said and done, the solution providers that make this switch are going to be a lot stronger than they were before in terms of their ability to stand on their own two feet and, more importantly, control what products are used by their customers. And what they are going to remember most about all these vendors that purport to be champions of the channel is how few of them were actually there during a period of time that will probably be remembered as one of the most transformative in the history of the channel.

Michael Vizard
Michael Vizard
Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight, Channel Insider and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.


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