Cisco has announced it will partner with BT and use the telecoms giant's direct-sales arm to sell its networking equipment in the SME arena, a move that has sparked concern amongst resellers.
The two companies are offering SMEs a complete business package to get online, including PCs, internet access to LANs, intranet and IP networks, virtual private networks, and other products and services.
Chris Read, head of specialist and new-business sales at BT, said the partnership will take these end-to-end IP offerings to the SME marketplace. Sales will go through BT's direct salesforce instead of resellers.
"In effect, BT is becoming a channel for Cisco, but resellers can make money now by selling products to sit on top of the systems," said Read.
He claimed that the two companies might change the route to market "over time".
Manny Pinon, sales and marketing manager at distributor Norwood Adam, said: "I think this has an element of a pilot [scheme], because Cisco and BT are two global companies that have no idea about SMEs."
Simon Crumplin, managing director of systems integrator Data Integration Group, agreed that differences between the corporate and SME markets will cause difficulties for Cisco's new approach.
He said: "I don't see it as a threat (to VARs), because SMEs like to be touched. It is a service rather than a product, and resellers are the best way to provide this."
Pinon thinks the new partnership will not stop at the SME customer. "I think if this goes well for them, they will move up from the SME market," he said.
He said the two giants are treading on reseller turf. "BT and Cisco understand the business of large corporates, but in the SME space they should leave the channel to do the job."
However, Cisco said it was not rejecting resellers. David King, channel account manager at Cisco, said the new approach will mean more customers requiring IT equipment, and more business for resellers in the long run.
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