Several hundred channel partners today are heading to the Avnet Technology Solutions Partner Summit in Broomfield, Colo. Partners representing Cisco Systems, Oracle and Symantec seem to be here in full force. The VAR Guy expects at least seven key trends to surface at the partner conference. Here's a look.

1. Choose a Path: Avnet is talking up targeted market opportunities here, focusing on six core areas -- HealthPath, GovPath, VirtualPath, SecurePath, StoragePath and NetworkPath. Longer term, The VAR Guy expects some sort of FinancialPath (...for financial services...) to emerge as well.

2. Beyond Traditional Storage: Jim Brown, senior director of verticals and alliances for Hitachi Data Systems, will try to get partners thinking beyond base storage offerings. He's expected to highlight "total solution selling" -- covering everything from storage virtualization to night vision cameras -- during his time on stage.

Night vision cameras? Looks like The VAR Guy better remain on best behavior here.

3. Best Foot Forward: Symantec remains the subject of channel debate. Some partners are upset Symantec seems to be promoting Symantec Hosted Services directly to customers. But Symantec Senior Director of U.S. Channels Rick Hofmann will have the chance to set the record straight on Symantec's channel strategy. The VAR Guy will be listening intently when Hofmann steps onto the stage here.

4. Think Small, Sell Big: As part of a recent channel reorganization, Cisco Systems' Dave O’Callaghan now focuses on accelerating growth in the SMB market. But what are O'Callaghan's top priorities? The VAR Guy will be sure to ask during a scheduled meeting here at the conference.

5. Lurking in the Shadows: Cisco will occupy considerable stage time, but rival Brocade is here to promote networking and storage solutions. The VAR Guy is checking in to see how the Brocade-Avnet relationship is progressing.

6. Local Chatter: The VAR Guy is going to carve out some time for Verio, a hosting provider that has offices here in the Denver area. The big question: How does Verio hope to differentiate itself when multiple firms now promote Hosted Exchange, Hosted SharePoint and other hosted horizontal apps?

7. Emerging Rivals: Here's an interesting twist... Oracle and Cisco both are major sponsors at the conference. Both are talking about storage, servers, and convergence in the data center. The VAR Guy wonders... are Oracle and Cisco on a collision course in some partner markets?

Our resident blogger will get you answers. Complete Avnet Technology Solutions Partner Summit coverage continues through Thursday, July 29.

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