November 14, 2023
Cisco hosted a networking event at the Canalys North America Forum, Nov. 13, 2023.
CANALYS NORTH AMERICA FORUM — The Canalys organization brought its internationally well-known analyst forum to the U.S. market with a blockbuster agenda featuring some of today’s biggest names and most influential players in the channel spanning vendors, distributors and partner organizations. In a series of analyst prognostications and interviews with senior leaders of vendors such as HPE and Lenovo in Palm Desert, California, on Tuesday, attendees heard about the harsh realities facing the entire tech sector.
While vendor leaders were ebullient about their growth prospects, partners were a bit more cautious. Thai Lee, CEO of powerhouse SHI, said AI is just not a reality for partners today and said the partners.
“Generative AI is exciting; we just don’t know how to make money from it,” she told attendees.
Lee also said cloud hyperscalers AWS, Microsoft and Google do represent a threat to channel players like SHI by taking hard dollars out of the addressable market. Lee said while the rate of hiring at SHI has slowed to reflect market realities, she said SHI is doing a better job of onboarding and improving the skill levels of their employees.
Lee remained upbeat about the overall channel opportunities around a coming refresh cycle of PCs and laptops along with more clearly communicating the value partners bring to customers. That was a sentiment echoed by Insight Joyce Mullen, president and CEO of Insight, who discussed how to best position IT service providers.
“We like ‘solutions integrator,’” she said, describing the model as one that can bring products and services to market more rapidly than the global systems integrators can, and deliver more value to the strategic vendors they work with on a wide range of solutions.
While HPE CEO Antonio Neri extolled the promise of AI and HPE’s growing relevance to the channel partner community, Lenovo senior leaders said they are focused on adding more AI functionality to their commodity hardware products to provide more value to customers. So-called AI laptops hold promise and represent a significant channel opportunity, said Matt Zielinski, president of Lenovo international markets. For Zielinksi and other vendor leaders − including Dell’s new top channel executive − the specter of channel conflict is increasing as they push deeper into professional services. There seems little doubt channel partners and vendors are going to be dealing with conflict and new ways of engaging in this new ecosystem going forward.
“No. 1 is the customer comes first. We all live and breathe to service our customers and, in most cases, partners have far better ability to service local customer needs than we do,” said Lenovo’s Zielinski.
He said that while partner by partner, Lenovo maps its capabilities vs. those of the partner, there are some instances where partners are better off reselling a Lenovo service than providing their own.
While there were very serious topics, such as how marketplaces are changing the ways customers and partners source technology and software pressuring traditional distributors, there were some lighter moments. HPE's Neri, who appeared on stage in a casual vest and sneakers, was asked about which brand of sneakers he is wearing these days. In another, a mid-40s Lenovo executive was asked about his corporation ascension at such an early age.
Perhaps the showstopper was Neri’s handling of a question about who’s the best soccer player of all time. In answering the question, he admitted to having played the game with Argentina’s Diego Maradona.
See our slideshow above for highlights from the Canalys North America Forum.
Additional reporting by Craig Galbraith. Informa, which is Canalys' parent company, also owns Channel Futures.
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