The recently concluded Citrix Summit 2018 underscored two important trends: a continued concentration on the vendor’s core technology stack and an emphasis on cloud-based business.
The refocusing has actually been going on for a while. In 2015, the company began discontinuing products deemed no longer central to its strategic objectives. VDI-in-a-Box was one early product to be cut. TechTarget’s BrianMadden site provided the details on a more recent round of product line restructuring in Oct. 2017.
The Citrix partner community has been largely onboard with the refocusing on core technologies. Nancy Pautsch, president of Envision IT, a Citrix partner in Madison, Wis., attended Citrix Summit 2018 and called the vendor’s “focused innovation” one of the notable themes at the conference. Continued »
Before embarking on a new year of reporting on IT industry trends in the channel, we wanted to take a moment to review some of our 2017 coverage that struck a chord with readers. Not surprisingly, stories about some of the industry’s most recognizable vendors received attention. The majority of these stories focused on vendors engaged in self-reinventions as they strive to remain dominant in the modern IT landscape. Other popular stories deal with digital transformation — a trend that every vendor and partner had to grapple with to some degree last year.
Revisit some the highlights that made 2017 an important year for channel partners:
Facebook makes channel strides
We saw Facebook last year wade deeper into the enterprise space with Facebook Workplace, its collaboration platform. Although still in its early stages, Facebook Workplace scored some significant customer wins (i.e. Walmart) and attracted interest from channel firms. Facebook has been busily expanding its channel ecosystem while the tool gains traction, as this update by senior site editor John Moore demonstrated. In a feature article about Facebook’s channel strategy, contributor Paul Korzeniowski underscored some of Facebook’s main challenges for courting enterprise decision makers.
Microsoft reveals shifts in partner strategy
Microsoft’s ambitions in the digital transformation marketplace led the company to alter some of the ways it sells with partners last year. Reporting from Microsoft’s 2017 Inspire event, John Moore described the changes that Microsoft unveiled to conference attendees, including a new consumption-based compensation scheme for its field sales. Partners responded positively to Microsoft’s moves, noting that Microsoft aligned more tightly with its digital transformation vision and partners alike. Review our Inspire conference guide for additional insight into how Microsoft strengthened its partner ties in 2017.
Vendor grapple with disruptive trends
There is no denying that top IT vendors are amid striking reinventions of their organizations. Our 360 Guide published last year sought to capture these transformations in a series of comprehensive vendor portraits. We looked at the major industry trends they are contending with, including cloud computing, shifts in consumption patterns, and the emergence of AI, big data and other newfangled technologies, to shed light on their changing focuses and partner engagement strategies. Review our guide to learn about how IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Citrix are trying to retain market dominance.
Dell EMC debuts a unified partner program
After Dell grabbed headlines with its dramatic acquisition of EMC, the post-merger Dell EMC company faced the difficult task of integrating their legacy channel communities. Partners eagerly awaited details about a new unified partner program, which Dell EMC executives said would have “the best of the best” elements of their past channel offerings. In this article published in February, I covered the integrated program’s rollout and Dell EMC’s thinking behind the program’s design. Our 2017 coverage of Dell EMC also included the vendor’s ramping up its focus on the midrange storage market and renewal of its alliance with distributor Ingram Micro.
Getting to know digital consulting firms
Digital transformation emerged as one of the most important IT industry trends in 2017. In this feature article, we discuss how digital transformation has paved the way for a growing category of nontraditional channel firms. While they describe themselves under various labels, such as “digital consulting firm” or “digital solution integrator,” the common thread tying these companies together is helping customers with their digital transformation initiatives and strategies. These companies also stand at odds with traditional partner models in some ways.
Taking a step back may shed some light on what’s ahead next year for IT channel partners.
A look at the top Channel Marker blog posts of 2017 — as measured by page views — reveals reader interest in next-generation networking, IT security, the internet of things (IoT), data management, marketing techniques and vendor programs for IT channel partners.
Here’s a rundown of the top blogs and what they might hint about the future:
The digital transformation business often focuses on the front end of the enterprise: customer-facing applications and, in general, initiatives geared to improving the customer experience.
But behind the scenes, enterprises rely on a number of back-office systems that may need their own bit of transformation. Those systems represent an opportunity for IT consultants and integrators. And among those typically unsung applications, procurement systems stand out as a technology category the digital era has largely neglected.
Kristin Ruehle, managing director at Accenture, said the level of investment and focus organizations have placed on the front office has left procurement systems behind. A recently released Accenture report, however, points the way toward a future of digital procurement. Continued »
In conjunction with last week’s IT Nation 2017 conference, hosted by PSA vendor ConnectWise, numerous vendors in the MSP software space launched integrations with the ConnectWise platform.
The integrations support ConnectWise’s vision of building an expansive ecosystem of third-party integrations with its professional services automation (PSA) tools. At the conference, the company revealed plans to release ConnectWise Developer Kit, a means for vendors and partners to easily integrate products with ConnectWise products. Developer Kit is slated for availability in the second quarter of 2018. In the meantime, ConnectWise has accumulated more than 200 vendor integrations available through the ConnectWise Marketplace. That number is set to increase significantly, ConnectWise executives said.
On the security front, AlienVault integrated its unified security management product, USM Anywhere, with ConnectWise Manage PSA software. A security monitoring platform, USM Anywhere provides asset discovery, vulnerability assessment, intrusion detection, behavioral monitoring, and security information and event management capabilities. Using USM Anywhere within ConnectWise Manage, partners can offer customers security services that include threat detection, incident response and compliance management for cloud and on-premises environments, AlienVault said. USM Anywhere is available as a monthly subscription.
AppRiver, a provider of cloud-based security and productivity services, also revealed a ConnectWise integration. According to the company, which works with managed services providers (MSPs), the new integration lets partners automate updates to their ConnectWise agreements for any usage changes initiated via the AppRiver Partner Portal. Additionally, MSPs can now access automated support of prorated charges and detailed auditing of billing-related events, among other features, the vendor said.
IT Nation 2017 attendees saw a new integration with Arctic Wolf Networks’ security operations center as a service offering, AWN CyberSOC. Arctic Wolf said the AWN CyberSOC-ConnectWise combination enables the ability to automate notifications and assignments of ticketed security incidents to ConnectWise Manage.
Apart from security, ConnectWise expanded the backup and disaster recovery offerings available in the ConnectWise Marketplace. In a new partnership with Infrascale, a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) vendor, MSPs that provide Infrascale DRaaS can access ticketing support, invoicing and billing, and inventory and reporting capabilities within ConnectWise Manage.
Additionally, Barracuda MSP linked its Intronis Backup product to Connectwise’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform, ConnectWise Automate. The integration simplifies Intronis Backup deployment and management, according to Chris Crellin, senior director of product management at Barracuda MSP, in a blog post.
On the distribution side, value-added cloud distributor Pax8 augmented its integration with ConnectWise Manage, creating what the company described as more seamless capabilities for placing orders, managing seat counts and adding vendor licenses through the ConnectWise platform. Pax8 said it also introduced capabilities to support billing and provisioning of consumption-based offerings, including Microsoft Azure and ProfitBricks.
Ryan Walsh, chief channel officer at Pax8, said the distributor last year introduced its first ConnectWise integration that synced the respective platforms. Partners, however, said they wanted to access Pax8’s platform without having to “swivel chair” from ConnectWise software. The new integration enables partners to do that.
“This [new integration] creates a completely different experience,” Walsh said. “Partners are saying … ‘This is seamless. … This really saves me time.’ And that’s golden to us.”
Finally, in the RMM space, IT management platform provider Kaseya said it will bolster its PSA connector for ConnectWise Manage. The Kaseya PSA Connector plugin lets MSPs integrate ConnectWise PSA software with Kaseya’s VSA RMM product.
In addition to several new enhancements to increase efficiency, the connector will feature Kaseya’s remote control technology within ConnectWise Manage tickets. Kasaya will also launch a ConnectWise integration for its software-as-a-service VSA RMM platform. Partners can expect these enhancements to roll out in the first quarter of 2018, Kaseya said.
Cisco Partner Summit 2017 covered a lot of ground before wrapping up last week in Dallas. Here are three takeaways from the channel event:
Partners like a consistent strategy
Cisco’s focus on software and subscription-based offerings remained in force at the partner summit and the company also continued to emphasize its cybersecurity focus. Cisco, naturally, has new things to add to the mix such as intent-based networking, but the company’s overarching message to partners has been mostly consistent.
“The strategy has not changed,” said Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions at Force 3, a network security and IT solutions provider based in Crofton, Md. “From a partner perspective, that is a good thing. We don’t want to see a reset every partner summit.”
Multi-cloud is the path forward
The cloud is one area in which Cisco’s strategy has arguably wavered from its generally consistent path. The company launched Cisco Intercloud as a public cloud venture in 2014 and began shuttering that operation in December 2016. Since then, Cisco has positioned itself as an enabler of multi-cloud deployments and features partnerships with public cloud vendors. At Cisco Partner Summit 2017, Cisco highlighted an alliance with Google Cloud that aims to help customers develop applications in the cloud or in on-premises environments using the same tools. Cisco also maintains cloud alliances with providers such as Amazon Web Services, IBM and Microsoft. Cisco partners are likewise engaging with multiple cloud providers as they work with customers.
Vinu Thomas, CTO at Presidio Inc., an IT solutions provider based in New York, said customers “need a combination of on-premises private cloud and hyper-scale providers” and also use software as a service offerings such as Office 365 and WebEx. The partner’s role is to help customers “through the multi-cloud journey,” he added.
Cisco partners need a software strategy
At Cisco Partner Summit 2017, company officials frequently cited the programmability of its technology, the opportunity to leverage open APIs and the ability of channel partners to build their own intellectual property on top of the Cisco platform. As more Cisco networking functions move to software, the onus is on Cisco partners to cultivate software skills. World Wide Technology (WWT), a technology integrator based in St. Louis, for example, acquired a software development group, Asynchrony Inc., in 2015. Renamed Asynchrony Labs, the group has been working on various Cisco-related projects. Dean Romero, national practice director of software and lifecycle services at WWT, said the software development group creates new applications, streamlines existing apps, and also takes advantage of the open APIs that sit on Cisco’s Meraki platform and other offerings.
Even partners lacking an in-house development unit need a software approach when working with Cisco. As the vendor continues to promote software suites such as Cisco One, channel companies have an initial sales opportunity and an ongoing opportunity to make sure clients unlock the software’s potential over time. Cisco refers to this ongoing partner-client relationship as “land, adopt, expand and renew.”
In that sequence, Cisco partners, ideally, build upon the initial software use case to perhaps include other elements of the vendor’s portfolio — security, services and collaboration tools, for instance.
Scott Mohr, director of data center and cloud go-to-market in Cisco’s Global Partner Organization, said the company’s analysis shows partners can expect up to an 11x incremental opportunity for every dollar a customer spends on software.
But channel partners will probably need to revisit their service portfolios to achieve those kinds of results. Wendy Bahr, senior vice president, Global Partner Organization, at Cisco, said emerging fields from multi-cloud deployment to intent-based networking will require partners “to build new skills and new capabilities.”
IT services firms increasingly rely on automation tools to boost efficiency.
SearchITChannel has followed this development over the past few months, covering the adoption of managed service provider (MSP) software products and emerging robotic process automation tools. The move to automate is a direct outgrowth of evolving channel business models. Channel companies that become MSPs find themselves offering services for a fixed fee. With that pricing approach, an MSP makes the most money if it can handle customer issues remotely, thereby minimizing truck rolls and on-premises support.
Dataprise, an MSP based in Rockville, Md., has followed that evolutionary path, shifting from a time-and-materials, break-fix approach to an MSP business model.
The fewer issues the customer has “the better it is for us,” said Mick Shah, senior vice president of technical services at Dataprise. “Our goal is to make sure that clients’ networks and servers and infrastructure are as healthy as possible.” Continued »
At the Autotask Community Live 2017 conference this week, managed service providers got some words of advice from former president Bill Clinton.
Clinton, the 42nd president who was in office from 1993 to 2001, delivered a keynote address at the Autotask event, discussing topics ranging from his decision to unscramble GPS signals to the Human Genome Project. He also shared a few observations on running a business:
Establish a vision and don’t neglect the “how”
Clinton told Autotask Community Live attendees the job of a leader is to “tell people where we are,” establish a vision of where to go, involve the people who want to get there and then execute.
He emphasized the importance of discussing “how” a vision is to be executed during the decision-making process. He noted that public policy debates during his time in office often focused on what a policy aimed to do and its cost. As a consequence, very little discussion centered on how a particular idea was to be implemented, he said. He suggested the situation is compounded today in a Snapchat and Twitter world of 10-second and 140-character communications.
Deal with the unexpected
Business leaders must handle misfortune while still staying with the company’s vision, Clinton said.
“You have to deal with the unanticipated incoming fire,” he said. And leaders must consider the nature of the response, he added, noting if all an organization does is react, it can lose its original purpose.
Prepare to enter new territory
Clinton cited a takeaway from Ron Chernow’s soon-to-be-published biography of Ulysses S. Grant as an important lesson for business owners. Clinton, who apparently has had an early look at the book, said the bio discusses Grant’s Civil War strategy of renewing the initiative after each battle, rather than occupying territory. Occupation diverted troops who could not be used in future offensives.
Clinton also noted Grant fought his battles on unfamiliar territory. He suggested businesses should be built to “operate on unfamiliar ground” and prepared for the inescapability of change.
Crowdsource decision making
Clinton also cited the effectiveness of diverse groups in decision making as opposed to relying on a “lone genius.”
The wisdom of crowds, which reflect different ways of thinking and different instincts, performs better when it comes to addressing complex challenges, he told Autotask Community Live attendees.
Microsoft Inspire, the company’s renamed annual partner conference, concluded this week in Washington, D.C. Here are several things I learned over the course of three days:
The Microsoft cloud partner base keeps growing
Microsoft says it has some 64,000 cloud partners at the moment and is adding more than 6,000 new partners each month. During his keynote address at Microsoft Inspire, company CEO Satya Nadella said some of those partners are “coming from other ecosystems,” citing the Linux, Hadoop and Java ecosystems as examples. “That ability for us as a partner-led company and a partner ecosystem to continuously welcome new partners and help them thrive as part of this community is what defines us,” Nadella said. Continued »
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is looking to bring its channel up to speed with digital marketing concepts and trends — a business area where many partners tend to stumble.
The HPE Digital Marketing Program, unveiled at this week’s HPE Partner Summit, aims to align partners with recent shifts in customer buying behaviors. Through the program, HPE partners can get support for creating digital marketing plans. Partners can also access market development funds, a marketing concierge service, and educational content and workshops.
“The reality is that today there is a fundamental shift in the market with respect to how customers navigate the buyer’s journey on the path to a purchase,” said Denzil Samuels, global chief channel officer at HPE.
Samuels said buyers have greater control over the purchasing process than they had in the past, often doing their own extensive research prior to speaking to a salesperson. “When these changes in behavior are going on, you just have to be present and deliver engaging content everywhere where customers are doing their research. … If you aren’t present, you’re missing on a huge opportunity. Not only that, but you may even lose existing customers,” he said.
Chris Ogburn, HPE’s vice president of worldwide channel marketing, admitted that while some HPE partners have made progress developing digital marketing strategies, “many partners in the channel are lagging.” The HPE Digital Marketing Program, he said, will bring up to speed those partners that have fallen behind, while assisting partners that are more advanced in their digital marketing tactics.
HPE will also continue to bolster its Social Media Center, which about 1500 partners have used since it was launched at the 2016 Global Partner Conference, Ogburn noted. As part of this effort, HPE this week expanded language support for the Social Media Center to include German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.