With Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in the books, here are a few takeaways and observations on WPC 2016.
• Partners appear to like Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program
Microsoft officials cited 17,000 partner transactions since the launch of CSP last year, noting that CSP in May 2016 surpassed other licensing models that let partners sell Microsoft’s cloud services.
“What we are seeing over the last year is Microsoft’s CSP program seems to fit the market perfectly,” said Jason Bystrak, executive director of Ingram Micro Cloud. Ingram Micro debuted the latest release of its Odin Service Automation platform at WPC 2016.
Bystrak said partners have gone from dipping their toes in the water to “really to starting to scale the business” of selling cloud offerings. As for Microsoft, the CSP program has become a key catalyst for Microsoft’s cloud strategy, he added.
A decade into cloud computing, many managed service providers are taking a less-than-aggressive approach to this widely adopted technology.
According to CompTIA’s fifth annual Trends in Managed Services report, published June 29, 44% of the 400 U.S. MSPs surveyed only support cloud services when requested by a customer to do so. That’s a fairly tepid embrace of a computing approach that has seen broad endorsement among businesses of all sizes. Continued »
Barracuda Networks Inc. is pushing forward with its managed service provider strategy, which kicked into higher gear with the company’s October 2015 acquisition of channel-oriented data protection vendor Intronis.
Barracuda on June 27 launched a firewall appliance geared toward managed services providers (MSPs) under the Intronis label. Barracuda NextGen Firewall — Intronis MSP Edition is “designed for businesses with multiple locations,” noted Neal Bradbury, senior director of business development for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda, Barracuda’s MSP technology brand. Continued »
Menlo Security, a company that provides a cloud-based malware isolation platform, aims to expand its channel reach through a partnership with Cloud Harmonics, a cybersecurity and cloud technology distributor.
Through the linkup, announced June 14, Cloud Harmonics will provide “customized training, services and support” around Menlo Security’s malware isolation offering to more than 400 value-added resellers (VARs) in the distributor’s channel partner community.
Indianapolis may not be at the tip of everyone’s tongue if asked about premier cities for cloud computing enterprises.
But Appirio, among the last of the independent cloud consulting firms, last summer relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to this Midwestern city. Appirio’s journey to the Crossroads of America actually began a few years prior when the company decided to look for a good central location for a U.S. regional office.
There will be minimal impact on Hewlett Packard Enterprise channel partners with the spin off of the vendor’s Enterprise Services division and merger with Computer Sciences Corp., announced this week, according to industry watchers.
Somewhat in synch with Dell’s $3.9 billion purchase of Perot Systems in 2009 and March 2016 agreement to sell Perot Systems to NTT Data of Japan for about $3.1 billion, Hewlett Packard agreed in 2008 to a $13.9 billion acquisition of EDS and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) will now sell the Enterprise Services division in an $8.5 billion transaction. The transaction completion target date is March 2017.
AVG Business is expanding its relationships with distributors, particularly specialized companies and those covering particular geographic regions.
The business segment of AVG Technologies entered one such agreement in recent weeks with EarthBend, a value-added distributor focused on business telecommunications and IT offerings. EarthBend, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., disclosed May 24 that the company now carries AVG Business’s Internet security software and managed services products.
Just days ahead of Lenovo Accelerate 2016, the vendor’s channel partner forum, held May 9 to 11 in Orlando, Fla., the Beijing, China-based company announced the launch of the Lenovo Capital and Incubator Group that’s making a $500 million initial investment to foster innovation both inside and outside the company in cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and Internet services.
Just prior to that, Lenovo’s Enterprise Business Group became the Data Center Group (DCG) with Gerry Smith at the helm. As of April 1, Smith, president of DCG, put together a team of three senior executives and four senior vice presidents. “We’ve built a very dedicated team with a full time focus on this area, spending a lot of time on innovation, and making supply chain a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Smith.
Closer to home, at the Accelerate event, company executives sent a clear message that Lenovo has its eyes set on the data center.
With midyear just a few weeks away, here’s a rundown of the key channel market trends that have emerged thus far in 2016:
Differentiation via intellectual property
At one point, just offering managed services versus reselling products was a point of differentiation. But today, most channel partners have made the MSP transition. That shift compels MSPs to seek out other forms of differentiation. The same theme holds true for channel partners reselling public cloud services — they need to find a way to rise above rivals serving up the same cloud offerings. The creation of intellectual property (IP) is one way channel companies are differentiating their services. IP can take the form of software. For example, a cloud service provider might develop a specialized app that ties into a particular public cloud platform (Salesforce, for instance). Or an MSP might create an IT monitoring tool for its customers. In some cases, IP can be a “productized” service — a branded cloud migration methodology.
Differentiation via expanded service lines
Channel companies can also add new services to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. An MSP focusing on server monitoring may add IT security to the mix, for example. Or a company already offering IT security — managed firewalls, let’s say — may offer more sophisticated services such as identity and access management. Smaller channel partners may find adding services challenging and expensive. They may also find this approach hard to sustain, since they need to cover more ground with a limited number of employees. The struggle to broaden service portfolios has triggered another channel trend: Partnering among partners. In this approach, a channel company partners with a peer to offer a particular service.
MSPs or VARs looking to get into the IT security space may find it difficult to hire the right people to offer such services. Vendors offering security-as-service, however, can help channel partners add security services without having to build a security practice. Security-as-a-service vendors basically help channel partners make the MSP-to-managed-security-services-provider transition. Channel partners that already sell some, perhaps rudimentary, security services can supplement their offerings through a partnership with a security-as-a-service vendor.
RMM technology shift
Remote monitoring and management (RMM) technology has long been the MSPs’ cornerstone application for delivering services to customers. But the technology has been around for 15 years and vendors are now working through significant product revisions. The main trends include improved integration between RMM and other MSP business applications such as professional services automation. There is also an effort to streamline RMM to make it easier for MSPs to bring on new customers and add new services to their portfolios. RMM vendors, as they update their wares, face challenges from hybrid cloud monitoring tools and may eventually bump up against robotic process automation. As a consequence, channel partners will have more tooling options than ever before.
IT services: Remote monitoring and management to get boost in 2016
Partner opportunity: Midmarket email migrations to cloud (scroll down to Autotask, AVG Business unveil MSP tools)
Distributors have long served as the main source of products for channel partners lacking direct relationships with hardware and software vendors. The rise of cloud computing, however, is pushing distributors into a different direction. As channel partner customers purchase less on-premise gear, distributors now place a greater emphasis on services including cloud-based services. Distributors offer cloud marketplaces through which channel partners can select among various cloud offerings and sell them to their end clients. Distributors also offer assistance with branding/marketing, IT asset disposition and government sales.
Cloud-based disaster recovery
Disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud — also known as DR as a service (DRaaS) — has become an important data protection opportunity for channel partners. Traditionally, smaller businesses have lacked the financial resources to build and equip an off-site DR facility. DRaaS, however, has transformed DR into a subscription-based cloud offering that eliminates upfront capital expenses. As the concept catches on, channel partners can offer DR to customers who could not previously afford it. Channel partners have the option of creating their own DRaaS capability or partnering with one of several DRaaS providers in the market.
Today’s regulatory environment calls for channel market companies to support customers dealing with compliance issues related to data security and privacy. But partners that want to move in that direction will need to acquire expertise in a particular industry’s regulatory setting — HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) expertise in healthcare or PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standard) expertise in retail, for instance. This transition will be easiest for channel firms that already focus on the business requirements of particular vertical markets. The rewards for delivering compliance support include greater competitive differentiation and higher valuations from a merger and acquisition standpoint. Partners, however, must be wary of the downside risk in compliance work and should consider purchasing professional liability insurance.
Pete Koliopoulos, is a well-seasoned IT executive with more than 30 years of experience in marketing, sales and channel programs who recently — March according to his LinkedIn profile — took the reins as vice president of global software channels and alliances at Dell Systems and Information Management (SIM) Group. In this new role at Dell, Koliopoulos works as a peer to Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances at Dell since November 2013.
With the announcement of Dell’s acquisition of EMC in October 2015, the question is: how many chief cooks — yes, pun intended — and bottle washers does the vendor need? (On another interesting note, Koliopoulos has a work history that includes stints at Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, VCE Corp. and EMC).
Here at EMC Global Partner Summit 2016/EMC World 2016, there isn’t a partner in the house who isn’t wondering what role the channel will play in the new Dell Technologies — the name the merged company will have after the acquisition is finalized. Specificity is scarce.
So why the Koliopoulos appointment and should partners care?
According to Dell, Koliopoulos will be responsible for the strategy and execution of the Dell SIM “Channel Partner First” approach that gives partners end-to-end solutions to open the door to new business opportunities with existing customers and new customers.
He will build a worldwide partner program with the goal of going deeper with existing partners rather than seek out new partners. “I look to expand partner revenue through services and renewals as well as give partners a deeper dive look on SIM solution areas so they understand the growth opportunity,” Koliopoulos said in an emailed statement.
SIM is a recently reorganized group at Dell. Dell Software Group (DSG) was started in 2012 when the company decided to bring multiple acquisitions together in a single business. In November 2015, the vendor transformed DSG around three technology domains — Security, Information Management, and Systems Management — in an effort to change the way it designs, markets and sells products. This led them to an organization encompassing four business units: Systems and Information Management (SIM), Security Solutions, Boomi and StatSoft.
Koliopoulous reports to Tom Joyce, general manager, system and information management software. Joyce, who while in his prior role for 11 months as senior vice president of global corporate development at HP with responsibility for mergers and acquisitions, jumped ship to Dell prior to the HP split. Joyce worked at HP since 2009.
Also on Koliopoulous’ team are Jeff McCullough, Americas, Chris Miller, EMEA and Mary Woo, AJP.
When asked about the timing of Koliopoulous’ appointment and Dell’s SIM strategy just ahead of the Dell-EMC merger, the company said the following:
With the right thoughtfulness and leadership this combination of heavily seasoned professionals can continue to build a truly unique and powerful channel ecosystem. One that can drive differentiation in the market and gain significant market share from the wide array of competitors.
So back to wondering about Dell’s strategy to bring on another top channel executive. It’s public knowledge that Dell plans to sell a number of the company’s assets to both raise money for the EMC acquisition and rid itself of non-core assets, i.e. Dell IT Services, formerly Perot Systems, as well as SonicWall and Quest. Is SIM on the chopping block too? An unnamed source suggested that in all likelihood Dell intends to sell SIM.
One thing is sure going forward: In 2017, partners of Dell Technologies can expect to see a single, unified partner program, according to Gregg Ambulos, senior vice president of global channel sales at EMC. What we don’t know is when the two separate channel programs come together, who is going to run it? That’s the next shoe to drop.
It’s no wonder that channel partners of both Dell and EMC are on the edge of their seats.