VAR, MSP, ISV, SI, Oh My: Types of IT Channel Partners

Posted by Mike Fitch on Dec 20, 2021

As a solutions aggregator, TD SYNNEX sits at the center of the IT channel ecosystem. Starting at the manufacturing level with our world-class vendors, then directly with our channel partners, all the way down to the final product with the end user customer, TD SYNNEX helps enable all kinds of businesses to use technology to drive real business outcomes. As next-gen technologies continue to grow, different organizations learn to take on niche roles to establish themselves in the market. This focus on specialization has changed dramatically within the last decade, making the channel partner community more adaptable, dynamic and efficient than ever before. With this comes a different variety of companies that we work with, all playing a pivotal role in helping to solve complex end user challenges.


[See how TD SYNNEX CEO Rich Hume describes how it takes a village to create success for the IT channel]


Now, you’ll see us use the term “channel partner” or even just “partner” a lot as we refer to the more common TD SYNNEX customers. However, this term can be a bit ambiguous and is not always a one-size-fits-all description of the customers we are often referring to. Different channel partner types can often overlap, and there can be an equally long list of similarities as there are differences between them. To help clear up any of this ambiguity, we’ve created a quick guide that breaks down some of the common types of organizations that we work with.


Value-Added Resellers (VARs)

In the IT channel, value-added resellers, or VARs, are organizations that enhance the value of third-party products, such as original technology from our vendors, through activities, services and features like installation, providing additional hardware, consultation services, integration, product support and troubleshooting and much more. In essence, the premise of VARs is directly in its name. These new features and enhancements created by the VAR are packaged together with the existing products or services to sell as a full-service solution, often to an end user client. One common scenario would be a VAR creating a specific software application, deploying it on a hardware solution built and configured by TD SYNNEX and then installed and supported for an end user customer.


We’ve been working with VARs for most of our company’s history (if you just count the 3 months since we’ve become TD SYNNEX, then we REALLY have been working with them for our entire existence). VARs often have the specialization or expertise in particular technologies or vertical markets that allow them to do a lot more than just order fulfillment. When VARs offer professional services, it allows them to be a huge part of the end-to-end solution rollout. The market for value-added resellers is always changing based on the IT landscape.


The primary benefit for an end user organization to work with a VAR is that they often lack the resources or skills available to deploy certain IT projects on their own. As we’ve seen in recent years, cloud, IoT and cybersecurity solutions can be extremely complex, and companies like TD SYNNEX are better enabling VARs to handle these deployments.


Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

Managed Service Providers, or MSPs, are another one where the principle is directly in its name. An MSP is an organization that delivers outsourced services in conjunction with the hardware and software solution being provided to an end user, such as:

  • Network and connectivity
  • Application management
  • Infrastructure administration
  • Cybersecurity software
  • Contract management
  • System monitoring
  • Technical support
  • Troubleshooting

Some MSPs focus on a particular technology, such as data storage, security or cloud, while other MSPs may focus on a specific vertical market such as retail or healthcare. These specialist MSPs are looked at as strategic outsourcing partners while the client company assumes responsibility for those services. In many cases, MSPs will handle day-to-day management tasks so that the end user customer can focus on their IT priorities without worrying about downtime. Most of these services are conducted remotely.


MSPs and VARs have a lot of similarities; in fact, in recent years, many VARs have become MSPs to better capitalize on the profit margin and recurring revenue advantages. You may also hear the term “cloud service provider,” or CSP, which can sometimes be used synonymously for an MSP when referring to the support of an organization’s cloud deployment remotely. The primary advantage of working with an MSP is to improve overall operations at a cost-efficient rate, especially for small and midsize businesses.


Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)

You may be familiar with this famous graphic that shows the number of martech solutions available on the market. As of 2020, there are now more than 8,000 of these programs; by comparison, there were only about 1,000 vendors just seven years ago. This rapid rise of companies battling for attention among those in the martech stack has made the value of an Independent Software Vendor, or ISV, more critical than ever. An ISV is an organization whose primary function is to develop and/or sell software solutions (but is not part of a primary hardware manufacturer).


ISVs are often able to consolidate specialized areas of the martech stack to offer options to customers to help them complete their software requirements. Often, you’ll find that major hardware vendors help out ISVs by rewarding the software vendors that make top-quality, compatible programs with valuable certifications. For an end user, the primary benefit of working with an ISV is the ability to gather more visibility on software applications available on today’s market, and with so many options, ISVs can serve as a viable consultant to help match those software programs with the end user customer’s business challenge needs and the hardware they have available.


Systems Integrators (SIs)

A Systems Integrator, or SI, plays a similar role to that of a VAR in that they combine the hardware and. software from vendors, with the key difference being that many SI solutions are new and custom-built for a specific end user. SIs can create more comprehensive, cost-effective, preconfigured solutions that can outperform traditional “out-of-the-box” products. SIs have an inherent knowledge of which systems function well together so that they can better solve previously-unsolved challenges.


SIs will play a vital role in the continued rollout of next-gen, edge solutions and the cybersecurity controls that come with it. SIs will help perform an assessment of an end user’s current technology environment and help them transform through a tailored integration plan. Even after the implementation of the system, SIs will help support and improve the system.


If you’re a consumer on and end user of today’s IT channel, you’re in good hands with a broad spectrum of types of channel partners that you’re able to work with to solve business challenges. At TD SYNNEX, we have more than 150,000 channel partners globally that we work with to ensure they are enabled to deploy top vendor solutions, across all vertical markets, with an emphasis on next-gen technology growth.

About the Author

TD Synnex Editor

Mike Fitch
Content marketer and communicator through and through. ASU grad with more than 10 years of B2B tech marketing/communications experience.