Intel's Todd Garrigues Looks to the Future for Partners

The chipmaker's North American channel marketing manager talks about how Intel is broadening its horizons beyond system building and trying to help its SMB partners succeed with new technologies and solutions. By Michael Siggins

From digital signage to all-in-one PCs to a joint road show with Microsoft on small servers for business, Intel is bullish on 2011. ChannelPro-SMB visited with Todd Garrigues, Intel’s North American channel marketing manager, to see what else the company has in store for its partners in 2011 and beyond.

ChannelPro-SMB: What opportunities do you see for Intel’s partners in the SMB space?

Garrigues: We have been seeing pretty good strength in the broad channel in terms of numbers, the number of unique customers, and those types of things. There’s strength overall in a diversity of products, and a return to growth in my market of server customers, for example. The number of accounts selling servers is growing again, and that’s a positive signal from an SMB channel perspective. Last year we really started focusing on some new segments of products and possibilities with the SMB market, like digital signage.

ChannelPro-SMB: What opportunities are you seeing?

Garrigues: Digital signage is a hot topic, and we really think that’s an area that has some promise for our customers to augment their existing lines of business. Within the current subset of products in traditional IT, there are some continuing evolutions and a surprise—a year ago some of the analysts were saying there was some growth in desktop. Some said that area was dead, and wow, it grew. And part of that growth came from the all-in-one category.

One of the things we’re focused on in 2011 from a channel perspective is trying to figure out how we can help the channel participate more in that segment. Our continuing quest is trying to add value to the SMB platform, or the business client. The Intel vPro story, and related technologies, continues. I think that the client space could be challenging from a pricing standpoint, so we’re looking where to add differentiation for our customers.

The server space, as I mentioned earlier, is where I see some significant growth in customer accounts. A lot of exciting things are happening there, [like] the new things you can do with KVM on a business platform, in terms of being able to manage the systems remotely, do diagnostics, and even do some patching and fixing—trying to make those systems even more friendly from a management perspective.

ChannelPro-SMB: How about the small server space?

Garrigues: That’s one of the big focus areas for us in the next six months—what we call the small business server segment, or desktop on the side. Basically it’s a desktop system that’s sold into a serverlike environment to run your Exchange server or what have you. The launch is now scheduled for April and it’s basically a single-socket Xeon processor with some great server features on these platforms, and they’re lower cost. The boards are coming from both Intel and other vendors, so I think there’s a really attractive small business server-type message. That’s the term Microsoft likes to use, and we’re actually working with them on a joint road show in Q2 to talk about this very story.

ChannelPro-SMB: Back to the all-in-one category, where was the biggest growth?

Garrigues: We saw a lot of growth on the consumer side and on the channel side we see it more in the government, education, and SMB space, partly because, by default, that’s a big chunk of what our customers sell to. But those institutions or segments are usually a little slower on those trends. The new hot thing is usually a little more expensive, and it takes time for designs to [reach] higher volume. Over the next three to five years, this will be a continuing trend, and one that will pick up momentum in many different segments.

ChannelPro-SMB: What’s your bill of health right now for the channel?

Garrigues: I can tell you that we had a really good second half of 2010. With servers especially, the channel is very healthy for us. The server average selling price was up substantially, which translates to our customers selling higher-priced solutions. The implication seems to be that they’re getting rewarded from the technology, and they’re able to sell those new technologies, which is a very good sign.

I look at the growth of things like SSDs, which have certainly been very, very good. It’s a new value-add category. The numbers relative to hard drives are still small, but it’s a new thing and the channel has done very well with SSDs.

For the Intel Second Generation Core, the early signs are very positive. With new technology, the channel continues to do really well, being able to take it and turn it into something positive for our customers. I’m looking at things like customer counts, transitions on new products vs. previous generations, those kinds of things. Though it’s not 1999, there is some optimism.

ChannelPro-SMB: Tell me about the post Intel Solution Summit period where you digest things and turn them into action.

Garrigues: We sit down with our partners and say, OK, here’s the new thing, and the features. Is this useful for you? Is there a wow factor? Are you seeing a response from your customers? For example, the Intel Quick Sync Video on the new Second Generation Core processor is an incredible acceleration of transcoding. It’s very powerful technology if you’re doing anything video. Now is that a consumer thing, or a business thing? In our mind, and in the way most of us use video today, it’s becoming both. One of the very specific charters is for each product line to collect that feedback.

So when ISS wraps up we make more tweaks based on specific feedback. The other thing is this is actually a worldwide series of events [collecting actionable feedback from our partners]. Some feedback and discussion is not for 2011, but maybe 2012 ideas.

The channel at Intel has long been a system building-centric channel. We started to broaden our horizons, and this year we’re taking more public steps to do just that, becoming Intel Technology Providers vs. what we’ve been for years. So we’ll be embracing a lot of different channel segments that we haven’t embraced at the resale level. The way we support that space has been convoluted, so we’re making things that much more direct in terms of how we engage them, how we help educate them on technology, and the Intel story with branded resellers.

ChannelPro-SMB: What’s your biggest challenge in 2011, and what do you think you’re going to achieve?

Garrigues: I think it’s the new product segments, for us embedded, and trying to figure out how we help enable the channel to embrace them in a big way. I’m talking about thing like digital signage, but the same is true of SSD, retail point of sale, storage, and there are several [segments] with what we call embedded. But in trying to come up with a unified message to help the resource base go fast and offer a solution to their end users is complicated.

What’s the optimal recipe, what’s the cost-sensitive recipe, how are you going to solve these things? And you’ve also got existing ecosystem challenges and new product areas like signs that ship through different channels today. How do we pull those things together and help match-make and so forth? Digital signage is a huge market. It’s supposed to double inside the next four years. Trying to figure out how you help people be successful is probably my biggest challenge—and one that that offers the greatest upside for us all.