Channel Marker

Dec 9 2009   4:57AM GMT

Hot channel trends to watch in 2010

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

Desktop virtualization will be big. Cloud computing and new client hardware? Also hot topics, but there’s less agreement about whether they’ll drive channel opportunities and profits. Yes, the SearchITChannel.com channel advisory board has weighed in on the hot technologies they see driving business in 2010.

There was pretty strong consensus that desktop virtualization is gaining traction. One VAR said DVI is most cost effective for shops with 200 or 250 or more users, but another said he can make a case for desktop virtualization for companies with 35  employees or so.

Without further ado, here are the top takeaways from this week’s advisory board call:

1: Get up to speed on VDI

The aforementioned desktop virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is really coming into its own, said George Brown, CEO of Database Solutions. And, interestingly, VMware, with its dominance in server virtualization, is not a lock on the desktop.   Citrix is getting a lot of long looks–and some wins–from customers, several board members said.

A lot of SMBs are seeing virtualization on the server side and are now intrigued by desktop virtualization as well. And, it’s by no means clear that VMware will parlay its current dominance in server virtualization into this new realm. Some of the VARs said VMware is even dropping prices to win deals.

2: Remember the cloud: Opinion was mixed as to whether cloud computing poses a valid (and secure) choice for business apps and data, but the board said customers would be crazy not to at least consider options like Microsoft Business Productivity Office Suite (BPOS). if only to take full advantage of Microsoft’s  continuing Google obsession. If nothing else they can get email and collaboration for next to nothing.  

“Six months ago I would have said no SMB would consider the cloud, but at $5 [per person] for mail and a 25-gig mailbox, [BPOS is] a no brainer,” said Luke Wignall, managing partner with Denver-based Common Knowledge Technology LLC.

How about Google Wave? “Not ready,” Wignall said.

 

3: Go vertical

The Sun-Oracle deal, should it become final, is a key example of a surge towards verticalization, a kind of “back to the future” where hardware and foundational software are wedded with vertical applications. Mega-vendors will increasingly pitch soup-to-nuts hardware/software stacks, said Brown.

Comcast’s proposed buyout of NBC is another take on vertical integration where the content provider and distribution unit converge and also bears watching, said Brown.

 

4: Droid could upset iPhone

One board member said he sees three times more requests for Droid over iPhone apps and fully expects  AndAndroid phones to surpass iPhone sales by mid year.  Members cited promotional deals offering Droid phones for $99. Another huge plus for Google’s entry: A choice of networks (including Verizon) whereas iPhone remains locked to AT&T. At least for now.

5: Client hardware conundrum:

The new generation of Netbooks breathed life into the moribund client hardware category but margins are razor thin. Panelists were mixed on whether they would add netbooks or other portable hardware to their product lists.  Some felt said that many downsized customers are sitting on a glut of unused hardware that can carry them through another upgrade cycle (especially if they use VDI to get the best out of older hardware.) Others see a price war breaking out between netbook and laptop class machines that could drive sales. While there may not be much margin in client hardware sales, some VARs want to offer the option as part of bigger deals.

 

Bonus trend: Recession reverb

In a follow-up email, one board member said budget-strapped companies have been forced to settle internal struggles in the interest of common good.  that means warring departments and job functions have been forced to play nice.  One common sound this year has been the “sound of silos breaking” thanks to tight IT budgets, wrote Pete Sclafani, CIO of 6Connect Inc. . “We have been seeing the IT/Operations feuds get kicked in the teeth by the CFO.”

6connect company migrated a customer that had run four types of SANs to a shared storage environment–reusing one of the SANs, keeping another for disaster recovery, and trading in/selling the others. 

This would never have happened [if they were] on their own – but they were tasked with fixing their platform (hence hiring us), and it needed to support both their production environment and their internal infrastructure.

 Sclafani said, via email, that he sees more companies realizing the value of using shared resources and of “private computing resources” aka  clouds.
“Last year it was still an ‘us vs. them’ mentality but the downturn resulted in slashed budgets and having to actually work toward a common goal. While these may be the exception – we have seen more departments actually working together now that budgets are not what they used to be.

More fallout from the recession: There is more used or lightly used equipment on eBay and other auction sites than ever–something that penny-pinching customers are quick to point out.

No matter what price is quoted on a given configuration, some customers’ default answer is: “But I can get it for $50 on Ebay,” groans Jill Steinberg, president of Value Computing, Inc.

 

Check out more IT channel news on SearchITChannel.com.

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