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Sun SPARC Resellers in the UK

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor
notes from SPARC market history

During the peak days of the SPARC systems market our US Sun VAR page was the most heavily trafficked page in the SPARC Product Directory.

The UK VARs page was popular too - although obviously the UK was a much smaller market. (The entire UK workstation / server market in the late 1990s was about the same size as that for the single US state of California. And that's why SPARC notebook manufacturer Tadpole upped sticks and moved from Cambridge UK to Carlsbad Calif. - and why many other UK start-up computer companies have done the same thing too.)

You can still see archived UK Sun VAR pages from earlier years by following the links below. (They don't look exactly right because of the technology used in the wayback engine - and changes in browsers and screen sizes. I'll try and restore backups from that time later. But pages shown in the links are 99% of what a reader saw at the time. And you can follow the links too - for an interesting ride down memory lane.)
See this UK SPARC VAR page as it looked in:- 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
In the late 1990s I estimated that most UK VARs were - on average - about 3 years behind their counterparts in the US when it came to web marketing.

This came from comparing the number of known UK Sun VARs in our own database (which Sun and other SPARC vendors occasionally used for direct marketing) - and seeing how many of those VARs had web sites.

For UK VARs that looked like 10% of companies at the same time as the US ratio reached 50%.

It was frustrating for me as a web publisher to get ad inquiries from companies which didn't have their own web sites. Although we did find ways of getting around that problem. Eventually I dropped the UK from our business model because the market was too small to make it worthwhile - compared to focusing entirely on the US.

I discussed this anomaly with many leading UK IT marketers - both inside and outside the Sun market.

An important factor at play here was not ignorance of the web.

You couldn't fail to be aware of the internet as a Sun VAR.

It was simply that UK companies had a selling culture in those days which preferred talking on the dog and bone and actually getting in a car (or tube) and physically visiting customers! Because the UK hot spots for computer use are small geographically (compared to the US), and because computers sold at higher prices in the UK, the old style sales culture still worked well enough for many vendors not to realize there was a more cost effective way to do business.

On the plus side - those early UK web marketing pioneers got better results than they would have done if all their competitors had been online at the same time.

Today I reckon UK VARs are probably just as good at web marketing. And in some ways - in the use of cell-phone based marketing apps - it's possible that European VARs are years ahead of the US where the mobile phone infrastructure is not as good.

the Golden Age for SPARC resellers - 1989 to 1999

Sun VARs played an important part in the 1st decade of the SPARC market opening customers' eyes to the unknown / or little known - Sun Microsystems. (Before they became known as "the dot in dotcom".)

As technical manager of a VME-bus systems integrator in the real-time Unix business I signed up my company as a Sun VAR in 1987, and later as an oem for the SPARCengine 1. Every time we converted a customer to Sun and sold them their first SPARC systens - the Sun sales guys would come along and say "this is now a strategic account - go and find someone else."

So I empathized with the experience of Sun VARs when I set up my publishing company in 1991 to compile and research the buyers guide which was later endorsed by Sun and SPARC International as the "SPARC Bible."

Those were exciting days at an exciting time in the computer market - when affordable parallel computing servers changed from a customized system which an integrator had to build from integrating disparate blades (we called them SBC's "single board computers) and multiple operating systems - to a cheap commodity which you could buy at a click of web cart.

I'd like to thank the all the content contributors, advertisers and readers who made this possible during an exciting period in the enterprise computer market.

Zsolt Kerekes, editor and publisher

PS - the torch for igniting momentous changes in the computer market has now moved on to the SSD market. Join me there - if you're interested - on StorageSearch.com.
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