How New Software Platforms Open the Door For VARs To Become ISVs


From the data center to the smart device, from digital signage software to the cloud, VARs have traditionally done a lot of the heavy lifting for others in the tech ecosystem. But that ecosystem is changing so dramatically and so quickly, a new approach really must now be considered.

For Value-Added Resellers, it’s time to think about wearing a new hat: Independent Software Vendor (ISV).

The amount of disruption is near or at an all-time high for the Information Technology industry. Software platforms that didn’t exist three years ago range from Android to Microsoft Azure to iOS. Use models are in the middle of the most radical change since PC makers began building notebooks with Wi-Fi antennas.

The guidebook toward navigating through this disruption means, in many cases, value-added resellers will need to act like independent software vendors. They will need to write more software than ever before to perform a wide range of functions.

Tiffani Bova, a longtime channel expert and Gartner Group analyst, recently told an audience of solution providers at Everything Channel’s XChange Conference in March that writing code will likely be a key in delivering solutions and taking advantage of new opportunities.

“It’s almost impossible to deliver a hybrid solution, meaning on-and-off premise solutions, integrating multiple cloud providers, as well as … private clouds without writing some form of software: APIs to get the on-and-off premise to speak with each other; you may have to write little tools to get databases to communicate with each other,” Bova said. “And more than anything, the two things that really start to make cloud work are metering usage and chargeback.

“If you’re not able to meter the usage in cloud … how is it truly able to spread the cost to those that are actually using it? Or are you actually just standing up the same kinds of environments you have had, because it’s virtualized?” Bova said.

Software doesn’t just add value, in other words, she said. The same, too, could also be said about software for mobile platforms, or software that can run across platforms.

The bad news is that VARs seeking to build into software development will have an investment to make. The good news is that there are a number of global technology vendors that are also at the same starting point with platforms ranging from Microsoft Azure for cloud to BlackBerry PlayBook for mobility. (Research In Motion launched the BlackBerry PlayBook as this article was being written.)

RIM, for example, is eager to build out its PlayBook ecosystem and could be—for some VARs—a good company to partner with on developing their own ISV capabilities.

It helps VARs measure that value in billable form as they deliver cloud solutions and more. But, Bova said, there is more than one route to this destination. Either develop the skills to write code, or partner with smaller software developers who can.

But even then, it’s important to understand the levels of complexity of different development platforms, as well as the levels of opportunity they can provide. Oh, and there are many platforms.

If you were around in the earlier days of the IT industry, when client platforms included Windows, OS/2 and Mac OS, and saw the complexity of cross-platform solutions, you know it’s nothing compared to today. Not only do cloud solutions require skill sets, but mobile platforms at the edge of the network, as well as newly adopted solutions like digital signage.

Not only will VARs need to understand platforms that are, today, literally weeks old, but they will need to understand how they can drive value or destroy value depending on whether they are deployed intelligently and appropriately.

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