Tech Data Wooing VARs to Grow Wireless Computing Biz

By D.H. Kass

December 11, 2008

Tech Data (NASDAQ:TECD) wants to strengthen the position of its budding wireless specialized business unit, striking deals with new suppliers and offering channel partners dedicated sales, marketing and technical resources.

The recent signing of a distribution agreement with AirMagnet for its highly regarded, enterprise-focused security, performance and compliance solutions highlights the one-year old unit’s charter to capitalize on steadily increasing demand for wireless networking solutions among channel partners. AirMagnet’s products and services enable resellers to survey, analyze, monitor and troubleshoot wireless networks.

The deal comes on the heels of an earlier consulting agreement between the distributor and BIG Wireless, a Pennsylvania-based provider of large, high-speed wireless data and VoIP broadband networks. Tech Data’s wireless SBU also sells products from vendors Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), D-Link, Linksys (NASDAQ: CSCO), Proxim (NASDAQ: PRXM), SonicWALL (NASDAQ: SNWL) and TerraWave (NASDAQ: TESS).

"The Wireless SBU is structured to help resellers who have opportunities in that area to sell network wireless LAN and WAN," said Todd Gronemeyer, Tech Data director, Networking Product Marketing. "We set up the SBU because it takes a different level of knowledge and support to sell and support these products. It’s not for broad line resellers; it’s for those with a more knowledgeable sales force."

The Wireless SBU is one of eight such separate profit centers set up by Tech Data to focus on specific product areas, technology or customers in a market. With the Wireless SBU, the distributor offers its resellers a dedicated pre-sales staff of design, financial and deployment specialists to assist them with handling indoor and outdoor networks.

In addition to wireless, other areas of concentration in Tech Data’s SBU lineup include physical security, telephony, professional displays, document imaging, printing solutions and two units for Apple Computer Inc. products.

Attraction to AirMagnet

Tech Data’s deal with the privately held AirMagnet is for the vendor’s entire lineup of monitoring and assessment tools and services, including Air Magnet Survey, AirMagnet Planner, AirMagnet Laptop Analyzer, AirMagnet Spectrum Analyzer, VoFi Analyzer, Enterprise Analyzer for Cisco and AirMagnet Enterprise. AirMagnet officials said that the company, which aims its products at enterprise-class customers, has nearly 8,000 such clients, including 75 of the Fortune 100, in a wide variety of vertical markets.

The vendor maintains its own three-tiered, certified partner program totaling about 200 partners. According to Jennifer Cook, Tech Data marketing manager for the wireless SBU, resellers purchasing AirMagnet products from the distributor will need to satisfy the vendor’s certification requirements. Cook said that Tech Data will call on its roster of "thousands of partners" to sell the vendor’s gear.

"AirMagnet’s enterprise products fit into any vertical market," Cook said. "They will help our resellers gain a footing in the wireless market." She said that Tech Data will provide pre-sales support to its reseller community while, AirMagnet will have system engineers in the field available to assist partners with installation or post sales issues.

Tech Data will have competition among other distributors, namely Ingram Micro, to push AirMagnet’s solutions to channel partners. Nevertheless, the addition of AirMagnet "fills a hole in our wireless lineup that benefits our resellers," Cook said.

One channel partner noted the importance of vendors such as AirMagnet to Tech Data’s wireless initiative. "AirMagnet is a key vendor partner for us," said Steve Miller, vice president of sales for Radiant Networks. "The addition of AirMagnet to Tech Data's Wireless SBU demonstrates that they understand what solutions VARs need to be successful in the wireless market."