Selling NT Outside The Box

This past July, Compaq announced that it's extending and expanding its virtual solutions model with activeAnswers "solutionware."

With activeAnswers, Compaq hopes to accelerate Windows NT solution adoption on Compaqsystems by attracting a broader range of software developers and creating a greatlyexpanded universe of "virtual" competency centers. Resellers, systemsintegrators (SIs) and "self-implementing" end-users can tap into activeAnswersfor content, knowledge and solutions to help them break through the barriers to rapid NTsolution deployment.

Compaq pledges that activeAnswers will help resellers, VARs and SIs go "beyond thebox" and develop more solutions-oriented, higher-margin businesses. It estimates that40 percent of its resellers already do some form of needs analysis for their customers andcontends that activeAnswers will help them speed up this curve, win more often, win morequickly and with greater profitability.

Looking ahead, Compaq plans to follow an aggressive timetable for addingindustry-leading solutions to activeAnswers. Solutions will be selected to address theneeds of small, midsize and large customers and to expand activeAnswers' portfolio inCompaq's targeted markets during the next few months. And, once it covers most of themajor horizontal solution bases, Compaq is likely to provide activeAnswers for its threevertical target markets: communications, finance and manufacturing.

From a total universe of about 40,000 potential activeAnswers solutions, Compaqestimates that only two to three dozen are actually tier-one, high-volume solutions.Compaq is collaborating with most of these ISVs to provide in-depth activeAnswerssolutionware.

Beyond 1998, Compaq intends to grow activeAnswers at warp speed in terms of solutionsand subscribers. It simply can't -- even with the acquisition of 23,000 people fromDigital Services -- grow fast enough internally to satisfy the demand for replicable,packaged, volume solutions deployment.

Compaq faces competitive pressures in its NT solutions quest, as other vendors vie tobreak its hold on the NT server market with their own programs to speed NTtime-to-solution. For instance, IBM offers its new ServerProven program through itsSolution Partnership Centers (SPCs), where it jointly tests, optimizes and documents NTServer solutions on its Netfinity servers. IBM provides resellers and customers freeonline access to these solutions.

Most other NT vendors (including IBM, HP and Compaq) continue to push preconfiguredsolution bundles into the market. HP, for instance, rolled out Realize Rapid Returns,tailored for small and midsize companies. It offers fixed-price, prepackaged SAP R/3systems with guaranteed installation in 10 to 16 weeks.

When possible, vendors will also increasingly take advantage of more direct sales andsupport models to cut time-to-solution. Data General offers "in-a-box" packagingfor Microsoft Cluster Server, Exchange Server and Terminal Server.

Dell Computer has the most potential to upset the NT server solution apple cart. InMay, Dell introduced ExchangeMatch, a free software tool that matches customers' MicrosoftExchange Server workloads to appropriate PowerEdge server configurations. ExchangeMatch isdesigned to help customers reduce purchasing guesswork and better project costs associatedwith configuring and implementing Exchange. Once the Exchange solution is configured,ExchangeMatch connects the customer's Web browser directly to Dell's online store.

To expand activeAnswers beyond tier-one applications, Compaq is developing commonsizing frameworks and other templates for the much larger group of second-tierapplications vendors. These developers will use these frameworks and templates to createsizing, configuration and other tools that conform to Compaq's activeAnswers methodology.

Compaq estimates it has about 75 activeAnswers channel partners now and it expects toenlist 500 by the end of 1998. As activeAnswers membership increases, Compaq will likelyend up with a tiered reseller program, analogous to Novell's Platinum, Gold and Silvermodels.

--Excerpted from "Compaq: Formula One for NT Server Solutions,"a Summit Strategies (Boston, Mass.) Market Strategy Report

(October 1998).