Ingram Micro Adds Cisco Business Unit

New group increases distributor's service, sales focus for Cisco Systems channel partners.

Distributor Ingram Micro Inc. (NYSE:IM) has added a business unit equipped with dedicated sales, marketing and technical staff to cater expressly to Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) channel partners.

Ingram’s announcement of the group comes on the heels of Cisco’s unwrapping of its Unified Computing System, a vast plan to tie together networking, servers, storage and virtualization that includes a dive into the data center server market. Cisco’s initiative squares the vendor off against entrenched server makers Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

The distributor formed the Cisco business unit at the beginning of this year and followed suit two months later with a similar group honed in on HP channel partners. Both the Cisco and HP business units operate under separate profit and loss statements, benchmarked by revenue growth, operating income and overall profitability.

The Cisco unit is tasked with “continuing to remaining relevant to VARs specifically across our Cisco practice,” said Holly Garcia, Ingram Micro senior director, vendor management and head of the unit. The group consists of 43 people spread across account management, marketing and market development teams.

“By organizing into a business unit and having resources fall under one executive leader, we can gain synergies and traction and get closer to VARs,” said Garcia. “Specifically for Cisco, we have seen significant growth in that business in the last seven years.”

Ingram Micro executives figure that building support teams organized around Cisco and HP channel partners not only will prompt stronger sales but also assist VARs to work with those vendors. At this point, Ingram Micro does not maintain a similar business unit peculiar to IBM, although it does provide dedicated resources for interested channel partners.

Garcia said that the Cisco business unit also taps supplemental resources from Ingram Micro’s collection of solution center engineers, technical support and purchasing support staff currently not housed under the new group’s umbrella. Ingram Micro’s Glacier program, an earlier Cisco-specific marketing campaign launched in 2004, has been folded into the new set up.

Teaching how to fish

Ingram also has taken steps to help Cisco VARs build their service business and, accordingly, has established a help desk around Cisco’s Smartnet program. The distributor’s Smartnet Solution Team is directed at assisting VARs to construct quotes and manage orders. Garcia said that the team will help “partners to build their Cisco services practices.”

“VARs want to sell services but for many it’s costly and complex,” Garcia said. “We have a desk within our services team to produce quotes and orders for any Cisco VAR that needs that kind of support. Our team will take the order and build a quote for the VAR. They don’t have to hire someone to do it for them. Essentially, we are helping partners to build their Cisco services practice by teaching them how to fish,” she said.

According to Bill Valentz, president of Strategic Allied Technologies, a solution provider based in Birmingham, AL, Ingram Micro’s Cisco business unit will “help us grow. We’ve done a good bit of business with Ingram Micro and they have a good support team. The Smartnet Solutions team has already helped us, they figure out the best discount structures and leave the guesswork out of it,” Valentz said.

Cisco’s distributors, which include Ingram Micro rival Tech Data Corp., are precluded from selling the vendor’s new blade servers but Garcia said that the distributor will be prepared to go to market when it gets the nod. “The new Cisco strategy definitely makes sense and is relevant to Ingram Micro and our data center strategy,” she said. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions and Cisco is taking a calculated approach in working with partners.”

Valentz added that he doesn’t anticipate any problems having to buy Cisco’s blade servers from the vendor but that in time he hopes to be able to procure them through distribution.

TAGS: IBM,virtualization,Cisco,HP,channel

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