What services do MV DBMS VARs provide?

I’ve recently been wondering what services most MV DBMS VARs provide, and if they charge additional fees for some services. I’m wondering what DBMS services end-users want that they don’t get. I’d like to see more happy MV DBMS end-users. Who’s with me?

I’m sure I mentioned this somewhere a few months ago: Nebula R&D is now an official reseller and support provider of TigerLogic products. I’ve been providing consultation for sites for years, and serving as backup to some VARs as their tier-2 support, but until this year I never actually signed on as a Value-Add provider with any DBMS provider.

BTW – TigerLogic partners should register for this year’s regional conferences. See you there!

As an example of the kinds of services I’m talking about, here is an ala-carte list of services that I can provide Nebula R&D clients:

  • Pro-active DBMS support: patches, upgrades, monitoring issues.
  • Pro-active monitoring for application aborts and system issues.
  • Liaison with TL for reporting and diagnosing issues, and testing fixes.
  • Indexing and performance monitoring and improvements.
  • Custom code Q&A, assistance with reporting, dict items, etc.
  • Information about how to use the system with other products and technologies (bringing it into this millennium).
  • Assistance with background tasks, automation, and system interfaces.
  • Implementing/reviewing an automated off-site backup/recovery strategy.
  • Initial consultation on new projects, referrals to qualified resources as required.
  • Mentoring and how-to sessions for users or management.
  • Occasional on-site visits as required.
  • Assistance with implementing changes and recommendations of other IT providers.

Some VARs are qualified to provide some services and not others. As former QA Manager, DBMS Product Manager, and other titles at Pick Systems, I’m well qualified to offer these DBMS-related services above for D3, honestly not so much for other platforms but through our partners I’d consider doing so. While some VARs might want to offer those services, many of them may not be able to. I don’t mean to offend anyone but everyone has their focus and we can only focus on so many things. That’s one of the reasons why I offer tier-2 support to other resellers – I help them to keep their end-users happy.

Another reason for some vendors not to offer those services is that it can be too costly. Let’s face it, the commissions on licenses aren’t significant and it’s really a loss to do this kind of business unless you have a decent number of licenses in your portfolio. So we can’t offer too many services to small sites without charging something extra – the cost of providing the services quickly exceeds the revenue for accepting support responsibilities. But most end-users don’t want to pay for too many services, so supply is rarely created due to lack of demand.

But if we don’t offer those services, how is “Value-Add” defined? Do end-users perceive value from a company that just takes their phone calls and then forwards the call to the DBMS vendor? Is there real value in taking orders for more licenses? Doesn’t Value-Add imply doing whatever it takes to keep an end-user on the platform?

Note also that Nebula R&D is recognized by TigerLogic as a Value-Add Consultant, not a Value-Add Reseller. The difference to them is that a VAR sells business applications – I and many of my colleagues do not. VARs get higher commissions than VACs. I’ve always found that ironic – that someone who writes a business package certainly knows their business but might not know the DBMS very well, and yet they get better commissions than someone who has taken the time to focus on the DBMS rather than an app. They also continue to get yearly commissions even though they don’t read-up on the new features of the platform, and sometimes end-users are left far behind in updates. So guys like me do more homework and provide more DBMS services but get a lower commission from the up-line partner to whom we provide more value. OK, enough crying about that.

Personally I think the value of the DBMS support provider should be separated from the value of the application provider. But I don’t think any of the DBMS vendors separate these roles. If they did they might hold onto more sites. Consider – an end-user might have a great app but they’re displeased that their (often aging) app VAR can’t help them with modern IT requirements, so they trash the entire environment and buy a new one. Not only does the app vendor suffer but so does the DBMS vendor and this entire industry. Where’s the logic in that? The first step to leaving the platform is dropping DBMS support, because many end-users don’t perceive any value in continuing to pay for DBMS support. If we separate app support from DBMS support, then the DBMS vendors could recommend separate, qualified providers that represented their interests better. App vendors who also happen to support the DBMS well could do so, but those who could not should be compelled to work with someone who can. Of course this leads to finger pointing between platform tiers, and questions about exactly what sort of certification qualifies a company to provide value at the DBMS tier, but that’s far better than the scenarios we face now.

And about tiers – DBMS VARs usually don’t accept responsibility for the OS, and yet many end-users want a single-source IT provider. So do DBMS VARs contract for OS services as required? Do you/they just hope no one asks a complex question? Do you charge separately for OS support? Do you simply not go there and require end-users to get their own OS support? This is another one of those situations where the vector is opened for competing providers. The vendor who can’t answer questions about the OS leaves the door open for the end-user to seek outside assistance – and you know someone on the outside is going to go “what’s this DOS stuff? You need to get MySql or SQL Server….” So VARs should be motivated to provide OS support – and the DBMS providers should similarly be motivated to see that OS-level needs are addressed by their channel partners who represent them.

The questions are exactly the same for the DBMS as for the OS, and end-users should be asking their VARs to provide or contract to provide complete IT solutions – unless they’re going somewhere else for those services. I’d be happy to partner with app VARs to provide DBMS support for their channel. I don’t do application work so I’m not going to interfere with any app provider’s clients. Why can’t app VARs have the same attitude about providing DBMS support? (Well, OK, no one is going to turn down a commission from the DBMS vendor, even if they aren’t really supporting the DBMS.) But isn’t it in everyone’s interest to ensure that each tier gets supported by the right people?

This has gone off in a few directions. My main points are:

  1. I’m wondering what services VARs provide to their DBMS clients outside of application support.
  2. I’m wondering how they price those services.
  3. Since I brought it up I’ll offer to partner with app providers to provide services that they do not.
  4. I’ll also offer to partner with end-users to provide services that they are not getting elsewhere. I hope app VARs don’t see this as competition – it’s obviously better to have an end-user stay with the platform because they can get support from someone like me rather than going to another platform because they cannot.
  5. I welcome discussions with DBMS vendors about creating a new tier of channel partners who can provide services as I’ve described here, with full respect for the existing channel relationships.

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