Distributors In the Cloud: Fact or Fantasy?

The VAR Guy

April 15, 2011

5 Min Read
Distributors In the Cloud: Fact or Fantasy?

The VAR Guy and his sister sites — TalkinCloud and MSPmentor — have been closely monitoring distributor cloud strategies. Can the classic pick, pack and ship giants — folks like Arrow, Avnet, Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data — somehow cash in on cloud computing? Really? The VAR Guy has some updated thoughts to share.

The distributor cloud discussion is particularly timely, since the Ingram Micro VTN (Chicago) and Synnex Varnex (Boston) events wrapped up earlier this week. Also, Arrow is set to host a cloud open house in Atlanta on April 20. Yes, The VAR Guy will be on hand for that gathering as well.

But what exactly are distributors doing in the cloud? Some of the early work involved simple, basic partnerships — where distributors put VARs in touch with hosted Exchange and online backup providers. But distributor cloud strategies are maturing quickly. A few examples…

Ingram Micro Cloud

Launched in November 2010 or so, Ingram Micro Cloud is a portal of sorts that educates VARs. It also connects channel partners with a range of SaaS (software as a service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) options from Amazon.com, Rackspace, Salesforce.com and others. Ingram’s goal: Become the distribution industry’s top cloud aggregator.

But is there money in cloud aggregation? During a sit-down with Ingram Micro VP of Managed Services and Cloud Computing Renee Bergeron earlier this week, The VAR Guy asked if Ingram’s cloud relationships could really generate money for the distributor. Bergeron’s classic but soft-spoken answer: Ingram isn’t running a charity; yes, the relationships are designed to generate revenue that flows Ingram’s way.

Perhaps more importantly, Ingram Micro Cloud can potentially increase stickiness between Ingram and its channel partners. In theory, VARs and MSPs eventually will leverage Ingram for Technology as a Service (TaaS) — providing partners with a single monthly bill for customers’ on-premise and cloud services.

Admittedly, The VAR Guy has no idea if or when Ingram Micro Cloud will potentially generate a profit. But Ingram is moving surprisingly fast for a distributor in the cloud arena.

Synnex Managed Services & Synnex Apps

The VAR Guy and the Synnex team are like two strangers passing in the night. For the past year or so, The VAR Guy has been reporting rumors about a Synnex Freemium Managed Services strategy. Earlier this week, The VAR Guy finally surfaced at a Synnex event to gather firm details. The location: Synnex Varnex, a gathering in Boston.

In some ways, Synnex appears to be chasing Ingram Micro. The Synnex team includes plenty of Ingram veterans, plus executives who have deep MSP and HaaS (hardware as a service) experience. You can find a deep dive on Synnex Managed Services here.

Still, the sexier story likely involves a small, highly targeted team of Synnex software developers. The development team — roughly 15 people or so — is writing Apps for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Google Android, HP WebOS and Windows Phone 7. In some cases, VARs and MSPs are calling on Synnex for App development help, delivering cloud-enabled mobile apps to end customers.

Admittedly, the App business may not generate much revenue for Synnex. But each new App potentially increases Synnex’s own intellectual property. And there’s a chance one of the Synnex Apps could emerge as the Next Big Thing in Corporate IT or the Channel.

Arrow ECS Fusion Cloud Services

The VAR Guy allegedly lives a few miles from Arrow’s headquarters on Long Island. But our resident blogger will turn his attention to Atlanta, Ga., on April 20 — that’s when Arrow will host a solutions lab gathering. Sean Kerins, president of Arrow ECS North America, will be on hand to explain Arrow’s cloud and data center strategies. Major vendors like IBM and HP also will be on hand.

Arrow has quietly inked several cloud- and MSP-related partnerships, including a NOC (network operations center) engagement with NetEnrich. At the same time, Arrow has branded its cloud effort around the Fusion Cloud Services moniker.

But how exactly is Arrow’s cloud effort performing so far? More thoughts April 20…

More Moves Coming

The distribution moves don’t end there. Over at Avnet Technology Solutions, the value-added distributor continues to evangelize a CloudReady strategy. Much of the initial work shows VARs how to promote virtualization as a stepping stone to private cloud engagements.

Meanwhile, Tech Data has quietly tested a SaaS platform for partners in Europe. The VAR Guy suspects Tech Data will eventually introduce a similar SaaS platform in North America. Just a hunch… but a strong one at that.

Growth amid Shrinkage?

Admittedly, most distributor cloud strategies remain a work in progress. The vast majority of distribution revenues still involve on-premise products. But sources say a few distributors are worried about shrinkage: Up to 10 percent of server hardware revenues could potentially disappear, sources say, as the cloud continues to take hold.

With that stat in mind, distributors are hoping to ride the cloud wave…

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