Software, Cloud Are ‘Carrying’ The Channel As Hardware Spending Drops: Circana

However, solution providers can expect a rebound in customer spending across categories starting in 2024, says Circana analyst Mike Crosby.


Cloud and software were bright spots in the channel amid the slowdown in spending on hardware during the first half of 2023, according to an industry analyst at Circana.

But an improved demand environment across categories can be expected next year, said Mike Crosby, who is also an executive director at Circana, a research and advisory firm formed through the merger of The NPD Group and Information Resources Inc.

During a session Sunday at the XChange August 2023 conference, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company, Crosby shared data on how much spending has been flowing through channel partners across hardware, software and cloud.

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During the first half of 2023, “the biggest impact [was] really around hardware,” Crosby told an audience of IT solution and service providers. “Software and cloud really are carrying us right now. Both are up and to the right.”

Spending through the channel on cloud — including infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service — rose 23 percent during the first half of 2023, year-over-year, according to Circana data.

Meanwhile, software spending through the channel climbed 5 percent during the first six months of the year, from the same period a year earlier. Hardware spending dropped 16 percent, and overall spending fell 8 percent to $30.3 billion, according to the data.

The spending on cloud saw significant variation based on the size of the business, Crosby noted. In small businesses — those with fewer than 100 employees — cloud spending actually fell 9 percent during the first half of the year.

But in medium-sized businesses, cloud spending through the channel jumped 32 percent, and in enterprises it more than doubled during the first half of the year, surging 108 percent from the same period of 2022, according to Circana data.

On the whole in cloud, “we’re seeing more and more expansion even into verticals that weren’t traditionally first-to-market on cloud adoption,” Crosby said.

Solution Provider Perspective

At Allixo Technologies, which specializes in offering managed cloud services for SMBs, the Circana data for the first half is “generally on par with what we’re seeing” in terms of a slowdown in demand, said Eli McCombs, solution specialist at the Mount Vernon, Wash.-based company.

Especially in the fourth quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023, spending was “a little bit tighter,” he said.

However, as of right now, “I think things have loosened up a little bit,” McCombs said.

“I think we’re generally seeing things go back to normal,” he said — with a return in willingness to spend on moving to the cloud in order to eliminate the need for managing on-premises infrastructure.

2024 Improvement

Indeed, Circana’s forecast is for the second half of 2023 to see an improvement across hardware, software and cloud, with spending down just 2 percent year-over-year, Crosby said.

And in 2024, year-over-year growth is expected in hardware in addition to continued software and cloud sales growth, he said.

The “expectations are that we’re going to be in pretty good shape come 2024, and even stronger in 2025,” Crosby said — driven not only by a return of improved macroeconomic conditions but also by PC refreshes, as a greater number of companies transition to Windows 11 devices.