Stronger Lucent Ties Could Boost Westcon Sales

Stronger Lucent Ties Could Boost Westcon Sales

Tim Kery

By Lisa Terry, Contributing Writer

Networking distributor Westcon Inc. is seeking to enhance its sales and services to government, education and other resellers by stepping up its relationship with Lucent Technologies Inc.

The move dovetails with Lucent's increased emphasis on indirect sales, which are "fueling the growth of Lucent revenue in the future," said Curt Fisher, vice president of global business partners at Lucent. The company has placed increased importance on sales to government through business partners over the past few years, he said.

Westcon of Eastchester, N.Y., has been designated one of three global strategic partners for Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent, along with Anixter Inc. of Skokie, Ill., and Graybar of Clayton, Md., based on the distributor's volume, breadth of offering and global reach.

That broadens its array of Lucent offerings, previously limited to data networking products, to include as-yet-to-be-specified voice and public and private network products for the enterprise and "emerging service provider" markets, smaller service providers such as competitive local exchange carriers and application service providers that buy through systems integrators.

The designation also formally expands Westcon's Lucent sales outside North America to five other continents. Lucent maintains some direct relationships with government resellers and sells to others through distribution.

Among the goals for the relationship are cross-training resellers with particular
specialties, such as teaching
telephony specialists about local area network technologies or educating LAN resellers on remote access servers or ATM wide area network equipment.

Westcon will be assisting in
implementation of Lucent's developing Convergence Reseller program to help value-added resellers (VARs) learn to marry together voice, data and public and private network technologies, an initiative that "will really help integrators differentiate themselves," said Tim Kery, director of product management for Westcon.

Federal agencies, for example, will "want to work with VARs that can provide the worldwide perspective of offerings from one vendor like Lucent," he said. "They can buy the whole spectrum of things they need from one source."

For CommNet Plus, an Indianapolis-based government reseller that already has embarked on convergence solutions, the alliance eases product acquisition.

"We're not going to have to go to four or five different distributors to get end-to-end solutions," said Vice President Bryan Woodcock. "It's got to be easy for me to do business and for my customer to do business," and having a one-stop source for a range of high-end products, integration services and support services fills that order, he said.

From the start of their alliance in October 1998 through the end of 1999, Westcon sold approximately $120 million in Lucent products. About 20 percent of that has been sales into education.

According to Ronald Sheps, education market manager for Westcon, much of that has been driven by the distributor's activity with the E-Rate Program, a special government fund earmarked to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. The fund distributes $2.25 billion annually to applicant schools in the five-year program.

Westcon offers teleconferences, sales and technical training and a database of school technology coordinator contacts to help resellers navigate the education market, as well as end-user conferences to inform educators. The programs are "a tremendous vehicle to drive sales and increase our reseller base," Sheps said.

The distributor offers similar programs in the federal government space.

Westcon, which is privately held by Datatec, Johannesburg, South Africa, does more than 25 percent of its overall business in government, and another 18 percent in education. The company carries just 11 product lines, a specialization that company officials said enables the distributor to devote more depth of services to each partner, such as human resources and channel development.

The firm already carried the product lines of several manufacturers recently acquired by Lucent, including Prominet, Yurie and Xedia, which helped Lucent quickly ramp up its channel offerings for those products. Kery predicted Xedia's Access Point QoS and QVPN router products will be hot among federal government buyers.

Lucent's stepped-up relationship with Westcon is part of an effort to re-evaluate its distribution strategy, Fisher said.

"We're taking a look at and rationalizing our distribution strategy and where we're going with it, where we can get some efficiencies," he said.

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