Arrow Launches Cloud Services Initiative For VARs

Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions has launched a portfolio of cloud computing services under its recently-announced professional services business unit.

The services unit, newly-branded as Arrow Fusion, was launched in March and now includes cloud offerings including data center monitoring and management, security- and software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service and business continuity and disaster recovery, according to Joe Burke, vice president of worldwide services for Arrow ECS.

Arrow is partnering with cloud vendors, including Verio, NetEnrich and McAfee/MX Logic, for the offerings. A variety of service-level monitoring and management packages are available, depending on customer needs, according to Arrow. SaaS solutions include security for e-mail and Web defense and message archiving. In addition, Arrow plans to offer subscription-based access to Microsoft-hosted Exchange and SharePoint, CRM and business productivity tools.

Infrastructure-as-a-service solutions include virtual, managed and fully-dedicated private servers that allow more computing power and access to servers, as well as storage and bandwidth control, depending on the needs of the organization, according to the company. Business continuity and disaster recovery services include offsite data backup and recovery protection.

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Arrow expects to play a key role in solution providers’ cloud offerings, Burke said, and he doesn’t see much difference between those offerings and ’big iron’ hardware that the distributor also sells to VARs.

’Just because not selling a piece of hardware doesn’t mean we’re not in the same position to do what we do for the big iron guys. They can also go direct with vendors. In terms of reaching a broad base of customers, we field a large sales force and have resources around billing, provisioning. We’ll make it easier for cloud companies to reach that audience and supply their services,’ Burke said.

The services are the first formalized offerings for Arrow’s services business unit that was announced last March. At the time, Burke noted that Arrow had offered services informally for years, but that a seprate business unit would allow Arrow ECS to expand and improve the offerings.

Verio selected Arrow because it’s targeting the midsize and enterprise-focused VARs that Arrow serves, said Steve Renda, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Verio.

The Centennial, Colo.-based vendor wants more partners for its virtual private servers/managed private servers business, not its traditional Web hosting business, Renda said.

’This gets us into a segment we’re not reaching very well today. Do we go after those partners ourselves and establish the Verio brand ourselves or find a partner? The answer was, 'Let’s find a partner,'’ Renda said. ’We can not only get access to this target market via a trusted brand like Arrow, but the services we provide can [help VARs and Arrow] provide additional services, say messaging. When we talk hosted servers, it’s a rich environment where a VAR or Arrow can add professional services to integrate and design solutions. We think it’s a new set of revenue streams for VARs and for Arrow.’

Next: Arrow Will Focus On Quality

Arrow has more than a dozen other vendors/cloud services in the pipeline, but Burke stressed the focus will be on quality, not quantity.

’No one knows exactly how this will play out in the long term. We’re not trying to adopt the approach to hire as many as we can and throw them out there. We want to see what works and what doesn’t work. What are the services getting more demand? We’ll work with some best-in-class partners and go deep with vs. go wide with a lot of them.,’ Burke said.

Arrow plans to launch a series of Webinars around cloud computing to help educate VARs on how they can complement current offerings. Subsequently, there will be more in-depth technical training, he said.

’They’re part of our professional services business unit, which also offers education, consulting and support. Those are going to be key enablers to help Arrow deliver cloud services to VARs and their end users,’ Burke said. Sharon Hebert, business development manager at solution provider The Pinnacle Group, Stamford, Conn., said she’s excited over the Arrow/Verio relationship because leveraging a distributor for cloud services can help reduce her costs.

’As a company, we can do business with 10 or 20 different [vendors] and the management of that becomes overwhelming in the multiple programs you’re in. We have spent a lot of cycles with ISVs that ended up not working right. With Arrow, the relationships they bring are always vetted and we trusted their decisions. It takes the leg work out of being in multiple vendor relationships,’ she said.

Gary McMonagle, senior account manager at The Pinnacle Group, said demand for cloud services has increased dramatically in the last six months.

’We’ve been running crazy with the whole market. I’ve seen more implementations going on and more opportunities. It’s an interesting idea and we’re thrilled Arrow and Verio have joined forces,’ he said.

Arrow’s cloud intiaitive comes about a month after Avnet announced its own CloudReady program for VARs.