VARs Find Growing Customer Interest in Green IT Solutions

More VARs find providing green IT solutions that can save energy and lessen operating costs resonate with business customers. Distributors are helping educate channel partners about the opportunity.

February 26, 2009

Lynn Haber

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VARs are increasingly leading their customers into conversations about green IT solutions, carving out sales in a market poised for growth despite the current economic slide. Explaining the potential cost-savings that green IT solutions can provide is giving VARs a foothold in writing the new business.

 “There’s not pressure from the customer to offer green IT. There is, however, pressure around the economy and costs,” said Patrick Ciccarelli, CEO of Varsity Technologies, an 11-year old solution provider based in San Francisco.

Ciccarelli’s company provides socially and environmentally focused IT solutions. What that means is what’s good for the environment is imperative for business, an idea that resonates with many vendors and customers.

One of the first things the VAR talks about with his customers when looking to mitigate costs is what they’re spending on energy. “What the customer can save on energy costs can be repurposed in another solutions,” said Ciccarelli.

Technologies that fit the bill include server virtualization, Energy Star and Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) compliant hardware, power management, and managed services.

Entering The SMB Radar Screen

 “At this point in time, I wouldn’t say customers are pressuring us to provide green IT solutions. There is, however, an awareness and desire on their part to learn more about it,” said Michael Drake, chairman and CEO at Master IT, a MSP located in Bartlett, Tenn.

Drake noted that green IT isn’t on the radar screen for the SMB market the same way it is in corporate America. MasterIT serves customers with 20 to 500 employees.

So he introduces the notion of IT efficiencies when undertaking customer assessments.  “We’ll talk to the customer about energy spending and how it relates to IT,” said Drake. More customers are listening.

According to the 451 Group analyst firm, strategic engagements around green IT noticeably escalated after the first half of 2008, driven by economics, compliance, corporate responsibility and operational imperative.

“Up until early 2008, none of the four drivers were strong enough to drive tactical engagements on the subject,” said Andy Lawrence, London-based research director for eco-efficient IT with the 451 Group.

Robert Laclede, vice president and general manager, government and education sales at Ingram Micro, said during the last year some solution providers have begun to connect the dots between green IT and saving money for their customers, something that resonates with CIOs.

Vertical Market Growth

Leading the charge for green IT is the government and education sectors. “They were among the first to include EPEAT in RFPs,” said Laclede.

EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktops, notebooks, workstations and monitors based on their environmental attributes in accordance with criteria in the IEEE 1680 standard. There are three tiers of environmental performance: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

The health care industry is not far behind when it comes to green IT adoption. Already heavily focused on reducing medical waste, “EPEAT is a natural add-on as they look at the overall reduction of waste,” said Laclede, referring to product packaging and disposal.

Ingram Micro is educating its channel partners about green IT, cost savings, and how to talk to customers. The distributor also launched, in August 2008, a service to help resellers identify “green” electronic products.

In November 2008, distributor Tech Data upgraded its MyLeadTracker tool that offers technology upgrade recommendations to include a product’s “green” status.

Last year, Amnet Inc., Colorado Springs, Co., IT solution provider, switched to emailing invoices to customers instead of mailing them. The change was not only a way for Amnet to be more environmentally conscious but to plant the seed for customers to do the same thing.

“It’s our job to start the conversation and drive the demand for green IT among our customers,” said Trevor Dierdorff, president and CEO of Amnet. “Our customers depend on us to advise them on better ways of using technology,” he added.

MSPAlliance Initiative

MSPAlliance accredited partner Anexio, Sarasota, Fla., is the first MSP out of the gate to earn the organization’s Green IT certification, that was announced in November 2008. Like Amnet, Anexio practices what it preaches regarding green IT. The MSP has virtualized its servers and desktops, purchases only EPEAT Silver or above rated products and is also focused on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.

Green IT, according to Anexio officials, provides a holistic agenda to create a healthy balance with supply and demand for IT.

“Most customers don’t understand green IT,” said Jeffrey Nelson, president and CEO at Anexio. But they do want reduce costs, increase productivity and keep the savings within the organization, he added.

Anexio’s role when it comes to green IT for its internal operations and those of its clients is to leverage server and desktop virtualization; provide remote management services to reduce the number of onsite visits; encourage the use of alternative energy sources; leverage Intel’s VPro and other tools such as ScriptLogic, Hyper-V, etc., to remotely shut down workstations if they are left on by a client from its Network Operations Center (NOC); and, promote cloud computing.

“Green IT is a big opportunity that’s going to have a big impact in our industry,” said Nelson, “Not simply when it comes to deploying green IT but using green IT to augment other aspects of the business."

TAGS: virtualization,green IT,energy,distributors,VARs

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