Toning Up for Sun

As the market grows cold, SunTone partner programs heat up.

In a big push to reach a broad range of partners, Sun Microsystems is rolling out major enhancements to its certification program, beefing up its compensation model, and creating a go-to-market strategic playbook for it partners.

Company president and COO Ed Zander and top executives will announce the initiatives to more than 500 service provider partners gathered this week at Suns SunTone + iForce Service Provider conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Heading the list of new initiatives is an expansion of the SunTone Certification and Branding program that adds new certifications in storage services, managed services and configurations.

Also, in an effort to drive more business, Sun is creating financial incentives for its sales teams and partners. In addition, it has developed a comprehensive program based on Six Sigma quality-of-service methodologies that will allow partners to improve their businesses.

Seal of Approval Partners and customers influenced the creation of the storage specialization within SunTones Service Provider services certification program, executives say. Behind the scenes, however, the company is trying to gain a stronger foothold in the burgeoning storage market to compete with titans like EMC.

"Storage services is one of the areas our partners have asked for, because it essentially complements the existing offerings for Service Provider services," says Tammy Cronin, senior marketing manager for SunTone. "We feel that with our efforts to enhance the go-to-market initiatives around the SunTone certification, we will be able to attract various players who may be married to EMC solutions."

The storage initiative, called SunTone Certification for Storage Services, covers a storage service providers (SSP) primary, secondary and backup/recovery services. In obtaining the certification, a partner receives a "seal of approval" designation that will be marketed to customers.

The storage certification takes about 60 to 90 days to complete. Incidentally, a service provider can achieve the storage specialization part without attaining the overarching Service Provider certification.

"You can specifically just do the storage end of it. It breaks it off as a separate piece of the certification offering," Cronin says.

So far, Arsenal Digital Solutions and StorageNetworks have received Suns storage certification.

To define storage specifications based on best practices, Sun established an industry-based panel called the SunTone Architecture Council. Founding members include Arsenal Digital Solutions, FileTek, Sanrise, Storage Alliance, StorageASP and StorageNetworks.

In addition, Sun plans to encourage enterprise customers to seek out service providers armed with SunTones storage certification.

Managed Providers In an attempt to gain traction in the budding managed services provider (MSP) arena, which analysts say will reach $10 billion by 2004, Sun has created the SunTone managed service specification, an enhancement to the Integrator Services certification program initiated in October. More than 175 companies have applied for Integrator Services certification, executives say.

The managed services specialization includes measures for creating a management environment, quality of service and managed operational processes.

In another area, Sun also is being cheered by partners for its effort to increase compensation incentives to 120 percent to its salespeople who drive business through SunTone certified partners. "It basically motivates its representatives, so when they see a hosting-type situation that requires our services, they bring that to us," says Lee Dombrowsky, director of market development at Qwest Communications.

"They really do motivate their sales reps to work with us to provide those types of services to their clientele," he adds.

Also, to encourage more rigorous partnering, Sun will pay 5 percent referral fees to certified service providers that drive business through the SunTone program.

Sun executives are slated to announce at the event the SunTone Configurations specialization. Designed as a preintegrated, pretested bundle, the first available configuration integrates data-availability software from Veritas, database software from Oracle, and Sun software and hardware.

Charles Boyle, director of research and development at Digex, gives that initiative a thumbs-up. "Thats something as a service provider we look toward, because we want to make sure that all the people that are bringing us configurations to host are building those on top of best practices like SunTone," Boyle says.

Go Get em In a bold new move, Sun is using a go-to-market suite of initiatives to drive demand toward SunTone and its service provider community in three areas: market differen-tiation, bottom-line cost reduction and driving end-user customers to partners.

Among the initiatives to be announced at this weeks conference is a contract framework, called the SunTone Service Provider Global Agreement, which enables global business via one Sun contract.

"You have to think through as a service provider, Do I extend my reach into countries where I dont have an infrastructure?" says Liz King, director of the global go-to-market strategy at Sun.

Furthermore, under what Sun is calling a dual-sourcing model, service providers will be able to choose how they want to buy services and support by either engaging resellers or Sun.

Calling the dual-sourcing program an evolution of iForce, Suns e-business startup initiative announced last March, King insists that Sun does not compete with its partners. "Thats a huge discriminator relative to our competition," she says.

Finally, in a move to pass down knowledge, King says the Sun-Sigma processes, distilled from Suns adoption of Six Sigma, will be offered through multimedia and an on-site "global services strategist" to coach partners.