It's all about partners

Sun/CDW Government agreement fills needs for both companies in the government market

Sun Microsystems Inc. walked away from the
General Services Administration's
schedule program, but as the company
promised when it made that break in
2007, it is still aggressively pursuing the government

The Santa Clara, Calif., maker of computing
and networking products has
worked with resellers and other
partners all along and now has
added a major new member to its
team: CDW Government, a subsidiary
of reseller CDW Corp.
that specializes in serving federal

Sun canceled its GSA schedule
contract after a lengthy public
argument with the agency over
pricing policies.

The arrangement signed last
month expands Sun's year-old
partnership with CDW in the
commercial sector and gives Sun another
pathway into the government market.

"The instant that I found out we were with
CDW on the commercial side, I started working
on the federal side," said Bill Vass, president and
chief operating officer at Sun Federal. The federal
procurement process made that partnership
more time-consuming and complex to initiate
than the commercial side, he added.

CDW-G plans to offer Sun products under
its Electronic Commodity Store III and Solutions
for Enterprisewide Procurement contracts,
said Andy Lausch, senior director of
federal sales at CDW-G.

Sun has been moving into the high-volume
sales space with products that agencies often
buy in large numbers, Vass said, such as
servers and software. Resellers are the ideal
conduit for those products, he added.

"We're taking them up to the midrange class"
of hardware products, he said.
"We're not currently planning to
sell volume on the high end. Those are generally
highly customized implementations that
take a lot of hand-holding to get installed."

Therefore, CDW-G customers will not be
able to get Sun's largest, most powerful storage
systems or servers through the reseller.

"Most of our customer base, if they're going
to buy that class of machine, they're not going
to log on to a Web site and put in an order,"
Vass said.

CDW-G employs 19 Sun-certified technology
experts to help with implementation and technical
guidance. It's also an effective way to market
Sun's open-source software, he said. An
agency can download the software for free then
buy a maintenance contract from CDW-G.

Sun's decision to drop its GSA contract
sparked some concern that other companies
would follow suit, possibly jeopardizing GSA's
information technology schedule. But so far
only Canon USA Inc. and EMC Corp. have
walked away from GSA.

"All of the companies that have left or have
threatened to leave the GSA schedules [program]
are such large suppliers to the feds,
with an embedded product base, that the government
has to have reasonable access to
their offerings," said Larry Allen, president of
the Coalition for Government Procurement.
Government customers are using dealer networks
and other contracts to get
the products they want, he added.

"Sun has always had multiple
schedule contractors, so the loss
of its own schedule contract
probably made little difference
except for those situations where
the government really wanted to
contract directly with Sun," said
Steve Charles, a Washington
Technology columnist and cofounder
of immixGroup.

Lausch said CDW-G sees the
partnership as a way to broaden
the range of solutions it can offer.
Agencies have been asking whether they
could buy Sun products through CDW-G for
years, and now they can, he said.

"When there's a gap in the portfolio, it
makes it harder to meet the needs," Lausch
said. "We've now filled one of those gaps."

Michael Hardy ( is
news editor at Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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