15 Managed Services Surprises at Ingram Micro VTN Conference

15 Managed Services Surprises at Ingram Micro VTN Conference

Several hundred VARs and managed services providers are wrapping up another day of meetings at the Ingram Micro VTN conference in Hollywood, Fla., today. There's plenty of SaaS, product and partner chatter in the halls. Here are 15 key observations from today's meetings.

1. Digital Signage - The Next Generation: Ingram VP Kevin Prewett has some rather interesting perspectives on the digital signage market, where massive touch-screen interfaces are becoming the norm. Plus, keep an eye on Vukunet a digital signage service that routes available ads to available screens.

2. Business Intelligence Portal: Ingram has launched a business intelligence portal that allows VTN members to analyze their own sales trending information. If you're a VTN VAR, you can review your own product and sales data across your customer base to potentially identify new opportunities. The portal costs $4000 up front plus $250 per quarter.

3. VARStreet Plugs In?: Sources say Autotask CEO Bob Godgart spent considerable time here on April 21, meeting with Ingram Micro and promoting the value of the VARStreet product sourcing platform to Ingram executives. Autotask acquired VARStreet in March 2010, and Autotask also has a close relationship with the Ingram Micro Seismic team.

4. Moving In: Instead of ignoring the Ingram-Autotask relationship, PSA rival ConnectWise is here educating VTN members about the ConnectWise platform. It's a solid example of a software company showing up where you least expect them -- and generating customer interest along the way.

5. One Brand for All: More than a dozen third-party software and services partners participated in the Ingram Micro Seismic booth. But all of the partners showed up with vendor-neutral outfits and Seismic-centric handouts. The approach potentially ensures that VARs view Seismic as a single, well-coordinated entity -- rather than a hodgepodge of loosely related technology companies.

6. Hosted Exchange Momentum: More than 300 Ingram Micro Seismic partners have signed up for Intermedia's Hosted Exchange services, according to Intermedia Senior VP Robert Leibholz. Intermedia also is preparing a partner program for its new hosted unified communications platform from Unison.

7. Go Get Talent: One executive here says VARs and MSPs should create a short-list of awesome talent they want to eventually hire -- before the economy gets too strong. The idea is to fire your worst performers now, and bring in top-notch replacements at respectable wages before hiring picks up significantly.

8. Products, Products, Products: For all the hype about SaaS, cloud and managed services, the vast majority of chatter here involved product refresh strategies.

9. Apple Loses, And Wins: The Apple booth area had barely any foot traffic, and offered little more than a black-and-white handout describing Apple's partner program. It wasn't a very impressive display. But dozens of rival tech companies were busy giving away iPads to attract VARs into their booths. How ironic.

10. Worth A Tweet: I hear Scott Spiro, CEO of a growing managed services provider (Computer Solutions Group), is developing a side business that will help companies to measure the effectiveness of their Twitter strategy. More details soon.

11. Let's Make a Deal: Rumor has it HTG Peer Groups will soon assist Ingram Micro VTN with a peer group strategy. Some details leaked out here, but HTG is expected to make an official announcement within a few days.

12. Game Changer?: Keep an eye on NetEnrich. Can't say why. Just have a hunch that the NOC (Network Operation Center) specialist has some managed services surprises in store for mid-2010.

13. Real Deal: Ingram Micro CEO Gregory  Spierkel says the economic recovery truly is under way.

14. Thank You Sir May I Have Another: A channel VP at Juniper seems to have an iPad addiction.

15. Big Margin Advantage?: Juniper Channel Chief Frank Vitagliano says Juniper's partners typically have a 40 percent profit advantage over Cisco partners. The data comes from IPED (no relation to iPod or iPad). I'll be sure to follow up with Cisco for comment during the Cisco Partner Summit next week in San Francisco.

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