Times may be tough for some systems integrators, but outsourcers say they can help. By partnering with a specialist for tasks ranging from hosted infrastructure to Web-based desktop management, an integrator can offer cost savings to its clients IT departments. These partnerships also can help struggling service providers to expand their customer bases.
Partnering wasnt always a big part of the plan at Xuma, an application infrastructure provider (AIP) that began life as an e-commerce application service provider.
Having evolved into a company that offers Web system solution stacks, Xuma executives realized they needed to jump into the partner channel. Now theyre paired with a large menu of systems integrators, hardware vendors and software companies.
"The economic downturn has only made Xumas story stronger," asserts Jamie Lerner, the companys chief technology officer, chairman and co-founder. "Its really a story of efficiency and cost savings."
Lerner acknowledges that his company has its limits and expects its partners will make money doing the tasks Xuma shuns. For example, while Xumas hosted solution stacks allow for rapid deployment of Web systems, they are not fine-tuned to the extent that many enterprise customers desire. Thats where the systems integrator gains value, says Lerner.
"We dont do the things a systems integrator does," he explains. "We dont customize." Lerner says Xuma now works with about 10 systems integrators, including DiamondCluster International.
On the other hand, Loudcloud sticks to providing automated infrastructure, all built on its proprietary "Opsware" software. The company, which launched its IPO on March 8, has partnerships with about 10 systems integrators.
"We dont write the apps for our customers," says Loudcloud co-founder Tim Howes. "We leave that to the customers or systems integrators."
Howes says systems integrators should be careful about who they choose to provide outsourced service. An integrator "might develop the best application in the world, but if its not handled properly after the handoff, the customers not going to be happy," he warns.
The value of partnering was acknowledged recently by TriActive Inc., an Austin, Texas-based managed service provider that launched a new business partner program. "Up to now, weve been doing it only through direct sales," says Todd Clayton, TriActives VP of marketing. "Were now taking it through channels, as well."
TriActives systems-integrator partners can show their existing clients a "demo" of the MSPs offering that quickly illustrates the benefits of outsourcing their systems management.
"One of the nice things about this service is it demonstrates itself extremely easily and the customer gets it pretty fast," says Clayton. "Were positioning this as an add-on sale to existing customers. If youre doing something of high value as a systems integrator, while youre there you can say, `Let me show you something very quickly. Its an easy, low-cost sale from that point of view, if they already have customers."
While pairing up is a smart way to add customers, Lerner suggests a bit of selflessness is key to successful partnering.
"Before you open a channel, you have to make sure youre 100 percent complementary, and you have to think about how they [the potential partner] will prosper from partnering with you," he says. "If you go into it thinking about what youll gain, then youve already lost."
These partners are playing to win.