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Sun 16 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Sun explains Wipro rationale

Sun Microsystems has inked a deal that will see IT services giant Wipro resell and integrate its entire suite of systems, storage, software and services in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. Channel Middle East quizzed Bruno Haubertin, partners and sales organisation manager for the MENA region at Sun, on the thinking behind the agreement.

Sun Microsystems has inked a deal that will see IT services giant Wipro resell and integrate its entire suite of systems, storage, software and services in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. Channel Middle East quizzed Bruno Haubertin, partners and sales organisation manager for the MENA region at Sun, on the thinking behind the agreement.

Talk us through the rationale of partnering with Wipro in the Middle East.

To put things into perspective, Wipro is the largest Sun partner in India by far. I don't want to talk too much about numbers outside of my geography, but roughly half of the revenue of Sun in India is coming from Wipro.

What we need to change is our go-to-market approach with these global partners and it is not simple because their requirements often involve having all the support in one country.

It is a very influential partner there with thousands of people trained on Sun products, which represents a wealth of competency for us. We started talking with Wipro about a year ago when they came to the region and most of the discussions were based around the business model that was needed to engage with them and how to replicate the success in India.

So it has taken a while to put this agreement together in the region then?

The discussion took a long time because Wipro is a multi-faceted company with so much talent and competence that we had to look at all the different SI, ISV and reseller angles. We finally found a business model by which they could become a Sun Partner Advantage (SPA) reseller.

They are a full-blown reseller in some countries and based on what we see in other countries there is an opportunity to expand. We have started to engage in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and they want to go to Kuwait and Bahrain so they are going to be one of our major partners in the coming years.

Will Wipro buy directly from you or through the distribution channel?

They will buy directly from us. They are such a big partner that they don't really need more support. We had a kick-off party with all the management team recently and everybody said that there were probably more Wipro people trained on Sun products than we have in the region because they can mobilise hundreds of staff!

Which parts of the market will they address for you?

I think they pretty much engage into big government projects. For them, as well, it is a new region so we believe there is going to be a learning curve of about a year or so because their brand name is not as established in the Middle East as it is in India. But we are very confident as we are talking about a powerhouse. Wipro is a very large and strong company.

Will Wipro receive more favourable pricing than other Sun partners in the Middle East?

No. The pricing is determined by the project and that tends to be based on the competitive environment, the budget of the customer and other elements. They will play by the normal standard rules of the SPA Programme.

What we are going to do with Wipro is try to develop more Sun product activities that we haven't developed today, such as software. They are very strong in software and we have lots of opportunities in identity management and Sun Ray deployments for large enterprises. These are the things they can do for us that we haven't addressed yet.

Do you expect this partnership to plug a missing hole in your coverage?

Yes, especially as our competition, HP and IBM, now have their own global services onboard. We need to have strong SI partners of that magnitude and although we already have a few, Wipro is really addressing and reaching projects that traditional resellers cannot reach by themselves. We are talking about big government or telco integration projects - multi-million integration projects that run over 10 years - which traditional local resellers cannot address and we obviously cannot address directly.

How much of this agreement is driven by the services capabilities that Wipro can bring to the table?

It is definitely the main element. Software and services are where we see Wipro making a big difference. In India they have a list of references of the highest level of IT projects there, as well as the people and the expertise.

What is your message for local resellers that are worried about the impact of this relationship on their business?

The likes of Wipro address projects which are not addressable through standard infrastructure partners. But although they address those from a consulting and systems integration angle they need infrastructure partners to deliver hardware, support, maintenance and spare parts.In some countries they will do that by themselves, such as in Saudi Arabia where they will buy the products directly from us and integrate them. But in other countries they will have to work with existing partners, so we are trying to implement something of a collaboration model.

What commitment has Wipro given to you when it comes to how serious they are about this region?

We are still in the early phases of planning. To be honest, I don't want to disclose any numbers, but we are talking about a significant number of Sun-trained people and that is definitely going to improve our capacity to deliver. There are some quite ambitious plans in place and I'm hoping soon that we will celebrate our first project.

Is there room in your partner network for more deals with global SIs?

I think there is room in the market. We don't have a fixed space for channel partners in this region - we just follow the space in the market and there is room for big systems integrators that are independent from vendors. We are already in discussions with a couple of other companies that are global partners of Sun outside the region and want to expand in the Middle East.

So can we expect to see more agreements of the Wipro variety then?

If we are talking about SIs then we have started a very strong relationship that will hopefully materialise soon with British Telecom. BT Global Services has started to increase its presence in this region during the last year and they are close to the Sun office in Dubai.

What's interesting with BT is that they purchased a company called Frontline in Asia, which is also a big Sun partner. So we are seeing these kinds of mammoth partners coming to the region and hopefully we will be able to piggyback on the expertise they have.

Dimension Data is another global integrator that has entered the Middle East this year. Any plans to tie up with them?

We are talking to them. Dimension Data has been a Sun partner in Nigeria for many years. It is not a very big office, but it is growing and we are talking to them about other countries in the region as well because they are a serious partner in South Africa.

Does Sun have to adapt its channel policies and procedures when it works with large, multinational integrators?

When it comes to the base programmes, all of the terms and conditions, price lists and requirements for delivering platform support remain the same. What we need to change is our go-to-market approach with these partners and it is not simple because their requirements often involve having all the support in one country. We have to find a model that ensures we can still deliver the same quality of service locally in every country using a central support organisation.

Presumably that's easier with some products than others?

Yes, it is very simple if you look at the software side. You can easily have central pre-sales support, and even post-sales support, in one country that serves a full region because software can be downloaded or people can travel to carry out the pre-sales, for example.

But when it comes to support services that require spare parts and engineers on site it is not as easy. It is very difficult to imagine having one set of spare parts and an engineer in Kuwait and then addressing an issue in Yemen. You cannot fly someone to change a disk or a card because the cost is too high and the model does not work.

Those are the two extremes and we are in the middle trying to find the right model that offers local support while taking into account the fact that regional players want to concentrate their resources.

Does the fact that you are engaging with global providers suggest a lack of skills and competencies among Middle East resellers?

No, what it means is that the customers, or the market, want to address very large projects. They currently have the choice of our two major competitors who have their own global services offerings, but there is also space for a vendor-agnostic type of SI. These vendor-agnostic SIs come to Sun for obvious reasons.

The Wipros and the BTs of this world know that Sun will never compete with them in their domain of integration and services expertise so they feel very comfortable delivering our equipment and technologies.

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