gallagher_pAvnet Technology Solutions (ATS) has a longstanding relationship with Sun Microsystems. But will that channel partner relationship remain in place now that Oracle owns Sun? The VAR Guy pursued some answers earlier today during a sit-down with ATS Global President Philip Gallagher (pictured). Here are the details.

First, a little background: The VAR Guy caught up with Gallagher and a range of channel executives during the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) conference in Manhattan today. The conversation with Gallagher covered numerous topics, the economy and ATS-centric revenue opportunities. But The VAR Guy was most intrigued by Gallagher's perspectives on the Avnet-Sun relationship.

Generally speaking, Gallagher offered positive thoughts. But he didn't sugar coat the situation.

Balancing Act

As reported, Oracle is increasing the size of Sun's direct sales force, even as Oracle introduces new Sun-centric programs within the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN) Specialized partner program.

At first glance, distribution partners like Avnet Technology Solutions could face more competition from the Oracle-Sun sales staff at the very high end of the market. But a closer look reveals some hidden opportunities for partners like Avnet, and Avnet's network of VARs.

When it comes to the Oracle-Sun relationship with Avnet, "I can't say everything is perfect," conceded Gallagher. "But our conversations with [Oracle Channel Chief] Judson [Althoff] have been positive. And Oracle just assigned a global executive team to Avnet. I don't think Oracle would do that if they intended to move Sun away from Avnet."

Indeed, Gallagher believes Oracle will ultimately consolidate the number of distributors working with Sun. And as Oracle seeks to work with value-added distributors rather than traditional product distribution specialists, Gallagher believes more Sun opportunities will come Avnet's way.

In terms of Sun's global footprint, Avnet could enjoy some upside in several markets -- particularly Europe, Gallagher said. "We see Europe as a growth opportunity. And in Asia, we’re the only guy in that region" working with Sun, Gallagher noted.

Opportunities and Challenges

Still, Gallagher offered balanced comments. Each time he noted some potential upside working with Sun, he also noted some potential challenges -- particularly in the Americas as Oracle's direct sales team expands.

Gallagher certainly wasn't pressing a panic button. Instead, he reinforced that Avnet conversations and meetings with Althoff and the Oracle team have been positive. "Are we still committed to supporting that business? The answer is yes," said Gallagher. "Our job is to be transparent. We need to look at where we align, how we work together and what's a fair return for that work. The devil is in the details."

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