Ingram Micro Expands East Coast Solution Center
(Buffalo, NY) — Any VAR who's ever tried to explain how an IT solution works without being able to show it knows what a daunting task it can be. On the other hand, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a demo lab isn't practical for the average VAR either. Value-added distributor (VAD) Ingram Micro Inc.'s solution centers — one in Santa Ana, CA and one in Buffalo, NY — were designed to solve this problem. The VAD recently announced a 1,000-square-foot expansion and reopening of its East Coast Solution Center, and it invited its vendor and reseller partners to a conference, which I attended. The new East Coast Solution Center includes more than $12 million worth of networking, storage, IP (Internet Protocol) video surveillance, VoIP (voice over IP)/unified communications, digital signage, remote office, mobility, and home automation equipment. Solutions providers have the option of scheduling demonstrations of products from more than 100 suppliers. There is no cost for the demonstrations, which can be led by a VAR or an Ingram Micro Solution Center engineer. Also, VARs that aren't in close proximity to the Solution Center can set up a remote virtual demo. "Between January and June of this year, the Solution Center helped our reseller partners generate $3 million in sales revenue," says Fran Murello, Solution Center senior technical manager at Ingram Micro. "There are currently more than $7 million in additional sales pending."
Are You Selling Crossing Technologies?
One of the goals of the Solution Center is to help VARs sell complementary technologies. One of the hottest complementary technologies is IP video surveillance. According to a recent Frost & Sullivan report, World Internet Protocol Surveillance Market, the world IP surveillance market will grow from $435.8 million in 2005 to $6.48 billion by 2012. Within the Solution Center, I saw a variety of video surveillance solutions demonstrations, comprising Axis Communications cameras and monitoring software, Buffalo Technology storage solutions, Belkin networking cables, ADTRAN PoE (power over Ethernet) switches, and Corinex broadband-over-power-line equipment.
Digital Signage Sales Opportunities Are On The Rise
Digital signage was another hot topic presented at the Ingram Micro conference. A study by Acclaro Growth Partners reveals that the financial services, government, education, retail, healthcare, and transportation sectors are implementing digital signage to deliver information such as live and on-demand video to key audiences. Over the next three years, corporate executives estimate that 45% of corporate AV (audio visual) budgets will be spent on digital signage and videoconferencing goods and services, representing more than 1 million digital signs in North America by 2009. What is entailed with selling digital signage solutions? It starts with software such as MagicNet from Samsung, which allows you to connect a video display (or multiple displays) to a LAN and distribute content such as pictures, audio, and/or video.
Ingram Micro's Murello talked about how the VAD tested digital signage internally and set up NEC video displays at key locations throughout its East Coast facility. The IT department worked with HR to put together a benefits update meeting announcement. "We held similar events in the past, made announcements via e-mail only, and received minimal participation," says Murello. "Using the NEC video displays and digital signage software, we filled our conference rooms to capacity." VARs can even sell customers a Web-based digital signage service called Digital Associate, which allows customers to create customized display lists; upload content; assign players (e.g. Media Player, RealPlayer, QuickTime) to stores, zones, and/or departments; create reports confirming when specific ads and videos ran; and access the application via a Web browser. The VAD also showed the importance of using digital signage management equipment (from vendors such as Cisco) that enables digital signage content to be encoded, stored, and managed. VARs should include digital signage discussions with their customers during the presales part of the sales cycle and look for opportunities to help customers promote, cross-sell, and upsell products and services; broadcast corporate communications messages; and/or enhance training programs.
Storage, home automation, data center infrastructure, mobility, unified communications, and security were additional topics discussed at the Ingram Micro conference. The benefit of using the Solution Center is that you can test and compare similar products from multiple vendors. For example, if you're a data networking VAR that's considering selling VoIP/unified communications solutions, why not schedule a demo at the Solution Center to compare products from Cisco, Nortel, Linksys, ADTRAN, and Microsoft? Receive unbiased opinions from Ingram Micro's engineers about which products are appropriate for SMBs, for example, or which solutions are geared to specific network environments. Plus, compare multiple brands of servers and find out whether the latest blade technology is right for your business. Also, compare a variety of storage equipment (e.g. network attached storage, storage area network, direct attached storage) and discover which kind is most appropriate for backing up video surveillance data compared with storing corporate application data.
Do you think digital home solutions aren't a fit for your networking reseller business? You may want to think again when you consider that much of the technology (e.g. networking and storage equipment) is similar to what you're used to selling and many of the executives you're already talking to are going to buy. Why shouldn't your customers buy all of their networking solutions from you?
After seeing Ingram Micro's Solution Center, I'm convinced VARs that aren't taking advantage of opportunities to learn about new technologies and/or using facilities like this to provide demonstrations to prospects are limiting themselves. Considering it's free to set up a demo, and you can set up a remote demo if the facility is too far away, what's your excuse for not making better use of your VAD's solution center?
— Jay McCall,
VoIP and Wireless Editor