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CEO Of Roundstone Solutions, ‘Among The Last Of The Old-School VARs,’ Bullish On 2023

O’Ryan Johnson

“In a down economy, costs are scrutinized. More so than in a robust economy. And I think that in 2023, we’re going to see end-user management say to their IT teams, ‘Hey, what has the cloud really brought to us other than much higher costs?” Roundstone Solutions CEO Tim Joyce tells CRN.

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The president and CEO of Orinda, Calif.-based Roundstone Solutions calls himself the “among the last of the old-school VARs” and he couldn’t be happier with the designation.

“We do what VARs are supposed to do: add value,” said Tim Joyce, who was named the Nutanix Partner Account Executive for the Americas in 2022. “We help our customers save money.”

Joyce said he is increasingly seeing the unpredictable cost of public cloud workloads driving businesses back to building out data center or co-location deployments to halt the creep of cloud expenses. And if 2023 turns out to be a year for belt-tightening, he sees that trend continuing.

“In a down economy, costs are scrutinized more so than in a robust economy. And I think that in 2023, we’re going to see end-user management say to their IT teams, ‘Hey, what has the cloud really brought to us other than much higher costs?’” Joyce told CRN. He said it’s a point he’s been driving home for months with winning effect.

Gartner Vice President Sid Nag at warned in October that cloud spending is just as susceptible to economic pressure as other IT spending. And given the size and growth of the expense, it might be cut in a downturn.

“Organizations can only spend what they have,” Nag wrote. “Cloud spending could decrease if overall IT budgets shrink, given that cloud continues to be the largest chunk of IT spend and proportionate budget growth.”

However, Gartner forecast that overall spending on public cloud services is likely to increase 20.7 percent to $591.8 billion in 2023, up from $490.3 billion in 2022.

Roundstone Solutions has been a Nutanix partner since 2014 and in recent years has grown from winning regional partner awards to a national award in 2022. Joyce said a part of that success has been Roundstone Solutions’ approach to customers.

“These days, all people are looking at is, ‘How do I get into an account?’ So they’re pounding the phones, sending a zillion emails, and everybody’s tired of it,” he said. “I’ll get to know them. We’ll go grab a bite to eat. We’ll play some golf. We’ll go to the game. Because ultimately, you want to do business with people you know, like and trust. And that’s the only way to get there. Spend time. So that’s what I do.”

Here is what else Joyce had to say in an interview with CRN.

I’m just wondering how you’re approaching 2023 in general and where do you see opportunity? 

I am very bullish about 2023. And the reason I’m bullish is I think that in a tougher economy, technology offers the opportunity to be more cost-efficient and cost-effective.

I’m selling data center technology which, when deployed, is a better, faster, more effective, cheaper approach than the previous approach. So in a down economy, that tends to be a pretty good place to be.

Meaning customers will be looking more carefully at where their IT spend is going or what they’re getting for it?

I think so. I’ll tell you what the biggest thing I’m thinking about in ’23, and maybe I’m 100 percent wrong. But in a down economy, costs are scrutinized more so than in a robust economy.

And I think that in 2023 we’re going to see end-user management saying to their IT teams, ‘Hey, what has the cloud really brought to us other than much higher costs? Have we really been able to sell better and more widgets than we did before as a result of the cloud? Because if we haven’t, why are we spending twice as much for IT infrastructure as we did before?’

So, if that’s the case, what’s going to happen with the cloud in 2023?

Well, I think it’ll continue to be the place where people will move some workloads. But I think that end users are going to be forced to acknowledge that the public cloud is not the only place to run stuff.

The sooner that end users start to do a true analysis by workload of where things should run, the sooner they’ll become a lot smarter with how they spend their money. You and I have talked about my view on the public cloud before and I think that as an end user and their management team looks at their budgets for 2023, they have to acknowledge, ‘Well, we thought it was going to be excellent, but it cost X plus other big bills that you never told us we were going to get.’

There are a lot more costs involved. And that’s why I’m saying that during a slower economy, people are saying, ‘Well, wait a minute. Are we really getting the value that that you’ve told us we’re getting? I know we’re spending more, but have we got greater value? Or could we be running this on-prem ourselves?’

Certainly, I think you’re going to see more of that in 2023. I’m going to be out there pushing it more than I ever did.

So how are you going to start those conversations with your customers? 

I’m starting already by saying, ‘Before you make any decision, whether on-premises, public cloud, whatever it is, do your homework. Take a look at all of the options and all of the factors and go into whatever decision you make with your eyes open.’

Right now there’s just this blind trust of the public cloud. And I just think that’s misguided. When everybody’s flush, nobody’s really saying, ‘Hey, that was a bad decision.’ But when the economy gets tougher and people are starting to question things, they’re going to look at that, and I don’t think a lot of guys are going to be able to defend it. Especially as the cost went up.

Do your homework and be informed.

Talking about the down economy, what are some ways that customers can start to leverage technology to defend against these macro threats that could be coming down the pike?

There were these commercials that used to say, ‘An educated consumer is our best customer.’ That was their tagline, and I believe that’s true.

The approach I take is that whatever the technology investment is you’re making, make sure that it’s an educated decision that you’re making, rather than a rushed decision where you didn’t do all your homework. When you make intelligent, informed decisions, your business is going to be better for it.

And I think that the average reseller is not looking at it that way, they’re looking at the fastest way to deal. And I think that going forward, the ones that help customers make a smart decision are going to be the ones that will be around for longer.

That’s what I’m trying to do—help my customers be as smart about their IT decisions as possible. At least about what platforms they may run.

It doesn’t mean that I’m always going to win. But I hate to see someone making a decision where they haven’t looked at all the factors.

And in a down economy, if I were the IT-decision maker, I’d be making damn sure I could back up my decisions, especially ones that are going to cost more money than other alternatives.

It’s not as simple anymore as ‘No one ever got fired for buying IBM?’ 

It’s interesting you bring that up, but that’s actually how it’s become a public cloud. If you go to the CIO and say, ‘I think we’re going to move this to the public cloud. Everybody will be like, All right, man, high five.’

But meanwhile, the smart company is the one that says, ‘How much does it cost to move it there versus keep it in-house? OK, it’s $100,000 more? Can you quantify the additional value?’ Most of the time they can’t.

I think you’re going to see more of that.

What else is on Roundstone Solutions’ radar for this year?

Security is going to be super important. And not just buying security products, but actually taking action on the notifications that all the security products provide.

So security right now is kind of a black hole. If your company found out that they got compromised through ransomware, and you didn’t spend a fortune on security products in advance of that, you’d be gone in a heartbeat.

But if they say, ‘Wow, we did spend a lot on security.’ So you know, you’re not going to get fired, but they are going to ask, ‘Well, so what the hell happened? We spent all this money? It wasn’t like we didn’t give you enough to spend.’

So it’s going to be one of those, ‘OK, what did you do with all the information that was generated by the security tool?’

Because they all do a great job of letting you know but the real question about security is, ‘What do you do when you find something?’ I think there’s going to be a rationalization of the security industry toward ‘What do we do with everything.’ In other words, Security Operations Centers are going to be important or private Security Operations Center settings. Those are going to be important because you can’t hire enough security staff right now.

I think you’re going to see that business take off this year.

O’Ryan Johnson

O’Ryan Johnson is a veteran news reporter. He covers the data center beat for CRN and hopes to hear from channel partners about how he can improve his coverage and write the stories they want to read. He can be reached at ojohnson@thechannelcompany.com..

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