Challenges in a Changing Channel
By Andrew Martin, Director of Asia Pacific & Japan
In the last two years I have seen transformations in channel dynamics that are more fundamental than anything I have seen in the previous twenty. Whilst I am not naive enough to believe that perfect channel dynamics ever existed anywhere; it has long been the case that vendors choose their route to market, either direct or via partners, and to a large extent they stick with the approach they have selected. System Integrators, for the most part, know which vendors they will have to compete with and which vendors they can expect to support them. Based on this, the channel has been able to build strong businesses based on domain expertise, product supply and, not to mention, value added services.
Everything as a Service, also known as XaaS, cloud computing and mobility are all impacting the channel dynamic in a way that in my experience has never happened before. As an example, in the “old days” (which are not so long ago) when Microsoft ended support for a server operating system this led to tangible channel opportunity for server upgrade projects. Today the focus for Microsoft is to encourage customers with unsupported server operating systems to upgrade directly onto Azure. As Azure is cloud based, the channel’s line on fulfillment is much more blurred than in the days of hardware and software supply, therefore a cloud upgrade is no longer an obvious “channel play”.
The bottom line is that the way IT is consumed has changed forever, and the way vendors go to market is transforming at a rapid rate. The net effect is that the channel ecosystem is going to have to adapt and reassess how they add value or become irrelevant. In the last six months, I have had more conversations than I can count with owners of resellers and system integrators that have run successful businesses for years but are finding that their traditional markets are drying up. The challenge they face is that the successful reseller business model that has worked for years is no longer sustainable, nor is it as relevant to buyers as it once was. Organisations are consuming and purchasing IT differently, because of this, the channel needs to review and change some of their go to market strategies in order to exploit the new world of opportunity that is before us.
Certain things still hold true, a reseller than can add value to IT no matter how it is consumed, will still gain the trust of the people and organisations they sell to. The key is to embrace the change that cloud and software-defined IT has caused, develop expertise in these areas and find new suppliers and solutions that are “born” in this new era of computing.
As an example, on the surface Zerto is just another replication company, but when you look deeper the technology has been developed for a new era of computing. Zerto takes a virtual or software defined view of the world and, in doing so, is fanning the flames of opportunity for resellers and systems integrators once again.
In the old days resellers developed skills in a product like backup; they did so in the knowledge that the built-in backup on the windows server operating system did not meet customer needs. Today the landscape has changed but the challenges still remain the same. Users are building virtualised IT infrastructures that leverage new consumption methods like XaaS, however these new methods still need a supporting cast of add on functions and products. In line with these changes, the supporting cast of specialist vendors is also evolving rapidly.
Zerto is one of the new supporting cast members, solving similar challenges but built for the new era we find ourselves in today. We provide a technology that has been built in a way that allows our partners to offer value add in a virtualised and/or cloud based world. In addition, companies like Zerto, who have developed solutions for today and into the future, understand that routes to market need to be accommodating and flexible in order to facilitate partner engagement.
One of the keys to successful change for the channel community is to search for the new breed of “born in the software defined era” vendors that have built products and solutions that are relevant to today’s ways of consuming IT. Advice for partners is to seek out vendors who are hungry for partnerships with companies looking to embrace the rapid change that is upon us and provide services that give genuine value so that you stay relevant to your customer’s ever-changing business needs.
For the channel, I believe this new breed of vendor is the future and the good news is that there are many more, including Zerto, who are forging a new path in this new era of IT.