Where's the value in networking these days? That's one of the questions I recently discussed with Allied Telesyn's EMEA sales VP Kenneth Torp.

The problem for companies such as Allied, which has a solid rep in specific areas such as secure networks, and triple-play networking (voice/video/data) for service providers, is that to the distribution channel, a switch is pretty much a switch. As long as it's cheaper than Cisco, that's about it.

To the end user and the system integrator, things are a bit different. Quality matters, as do the various extra features that different manufacturers build in. Even having a nice solid metal box instead of tacky plastic makes all the difference for some.

Torp says that the problem for Allied in the UK until recently was that it employed a lot of ex-3Com staff, who were very distribution-focused. They were trying to cover too much ground and the company was spread too thin as a result.

So the company has reorganised along the lines that it has been following in other European countries, such as the Nordic region. The channel focus is going, to be replaced by a push for sales through system integrators and direct to large customers - people who Torp says can build upon the specific features that Allied's hardware and software offers.

It's not often that we hear of companies moving away from resellers, but it's an interesting move - and one that reminds us that a switch may well be just a switch, but IP networks are certainly not commodities, not by a long shot. Neither, of course, are the people who build and run them.