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Resellers Paving the Road for UC

For several years, we've been writing about the importance of resellers to Unified Communications (UC) and of UC to the resellers (aka Value Added Resellers/VARs and Systems Integrators/SIs). This past week, we saw this coming to fruition, up close and personal at the UC Summit sponsored by refresh the picture, resellers are key to the growth of the UC markets. Essentially every one of the dozen UC system suppliers we reviewed in "UC Options: Who's Offering What?" at VoiceCon Orlando 2010 relies on reseller channels to deliver their products to market. Both IP PBX makers (e.g. Avaya, Cisco, Siemens, NEC, and more) and desktop software makers (primarily IBM and Microsoft) depend on the reseller channels to find the compelling applications, design the solutions, assemble the technology elements, install and test the integrations, and program the (UC and CEBP) applications. Even though the system suppliers are creating fine technology, it seems that the heavy lifting of realizing the value of UC falls to the resellers. Of course, the resellers can be well rewarded for their efforts. Up to 40% of the value of a UC sale is now in the vertical market packaged UC solutions and professional services that the resellers deliver.

Now, back to the UC Summit. Beginning in 2008, has convened resellers, vendors and consultants for a candid discussion of progress in the UC marketplace, i.e. backstage chat on how better to serve customers. This last week's gathering showed huge progress and some interesting trends.

* The resellers are expanding their portfolios. They realize that UC is an emerging market with new technologies that their customers have chosen, so the traditional IP PBX resellers are adding desktop reseller relationships and the traditional desktop/e-mail resellers are building up VoIP skills and reseller roles with the voice software companies. An informal poll indicated that roughly 80% of the resellers at the Summit had added a cross-category reseller relationship.

* Lots of "UC glue" is required. The resellers have realized that UC is an evolving market and that customers are investing incrementally rather than through wholesale swap outs. Therefore, they need access to the pieces that complete the UC puzzle. For example, gateways are almost mandatory for a new UC solution. SIP trunks require session border controllers (SBCs). PC-based communications requires top quality wired and wireless interface devices, headsets and more. Of course, this is what VARs and SIs do.

* Software is the new platform. The preponderance of the UC Summit attendees realize it is now a software world. Some, like Bill Vollerthum and his team at Enabling Technologies, are building packaged applications, such as their integration of Microsoft OCS with the educational software package Blackboard, so that students can see the presence status and click to communicate with the instructors, administrators, and classmates associated with each course. Others, such as Evangelyze, are specializing in middleware and SDKs to create cross-platform UC applications.

And, all this seems to be working. A number of the resellers reported 30% or more annual growth in their UC sales, even in this tough economic climate. This is a validation of the definition of UC as, "communications integrated to optimize business processes."

A quick visit to will underscore these trends, showing the blend of IP PBX suppliers (Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Aastra, Interactive Intelligence, Siemens), desktop software suppliers (IBM, Microsoft), and the providers of "glue" and software (NET, Acme Packet, Plantronics, Verint, and AVST). You can also listen to our Monday, May 03, 2010 podcast with Summit highlight commentary from the team.

What is your perspective on the role of resellers in the growth of UC? Please post your thoughts or send your comments to [email protected].