IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

The IT Forecast for Spring

Longtime channel pro Joe Toste provides his springtime technology forecast. Use these tips to help you decide the fields in which you should being sowing. By Geoffrey Oldmixon

Spring has sprung, and the ground is soft. It's time to prepare the fields and lay in the seeds for the autumn harvest.

Like any good farmer, it's important for channel pros to analyze the environment before investing in a crop. To help us determine which technologies are poised for growth under the channel sun this year, we turned to Joe Toste of Minneapolis-based Equus Computer Systems.

Toste, vice president of sales and marketing at Equus, believes this year's yield has good potential. Here are some of his projections for the growing season.

The Product Market
According to Toste, virtualization is the key, and storage and servers are the opportunity. "We see tremendous opportunities in terms in storage. The cost effectiveness of computing power in deploying bigger boxes with more storage and more sockets for server based-applications...that's the trend."

Toste says that some of the channel's best solution providers are those paying attention to storage and server opportunities. "They are high-margin, high-solutions," he says.

"About 20 percent of our market stays desktop and server," Toste explains. "That 20 percent of the market is not multinational companies, like Dell and Acer; it's the 20 percent that's in flux. It used to be that, in that 20 percent, were able to provide less expensive products than Dell or HP. That has changed over the last two years. If we are talking about a standard machine, our system is probably more expensive, and that's OK in that [20 percent] marketplace."

For some customers, the opportunity is mobile, Toste says. He follows that up quickly with, "But in some special areas." 

Equus Computer Systems is one of just three distributors in the U.S. partnering with Intel on the chip-maker's latest foray into the whitebook solutions business. Dubbed Spring Peak, the program is a build-to-order whitebook program in which 15.6-inch and 13.3-inch notebooks designed by Intel can be custom ordered.

But even with the new opportunities in mobile, Toste delivers the promising news with some candid advice. "In all of the markets I'm talking about, even desktops, you better deliver a solution," he says. "And it's important to have a vertical market-focus in terms of delivering that solution."

Toste adds, "Whether it's desktop, mobile, or servers, this comes back to what we are really rediscovering back in our space: the concept of localization. We are really emphasizing that it's all about the service."

The Services Field
In addition to cultivating growth through product offerings, Toste emphasizes (and re-emphasizes) the importance of service as an offering.

"If you're a solution provider, you really want someone that knows how you want your system built and can deliver it in five to six days," Toste says. That, he explains, is the channel's service edge.

"There's no one else that can do that for them. Having consistent service that can come up with components, can deliver a server solution in five or six days or a circuit or desktop in three or four days that's customized and configured to order--that' a big part of the marketplace for channel pros."

Toste adds, "These aren't the types of machines that you would buy or pick off the rack at Costco or Best Buy. These are the kinds of systems that SMB solution providers are buying and reselling."

According to Toste, it's important for channel pros, system builders especially, to communicate the benefits of local customization. Using building blocks that center around Intel or AMD has its benefits. Those benefits should be shared.

"When you buy a [tier-1] machine or [international brandname] machine, you discover they are no longer built by common building blocks. You may have a different power supply, a different connector. There's always going to be something."

Toste says it's important, therefore, to explain the value of interchangeability over time. "Most of the people buying from you are worried about a solution. The last thing they want to worry about is the hardware platform. Consistent hardware means you can give exceptional service."

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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