Exclusive Q&A: Ingram Micro President Paul Bay Sees Big Opportunities In Cloud, Mobility

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After an exciting quarter for Ingram Micro, in which the distributor made some exciting acquisitions and beat Wall Street's expectations, Ingram Micro's North American President Paul Bay sat down for an exclusive interview with CRN's Sarah Kuranda to talk about industry trends and what's up next for the distributor in the channel. Following is a lightly edited transcript from the interview.

CRN: How is Ingram Micro approaching the cloud and building a strategy around it?

Bay: We believe that it is here to stay, and it is growing. It's more hybrid cloud than it is on-premise versus off-premise.

This is complex for our partners. You have the born-in-the-cloud solution providers and customers that understand this market, but I would say the majority of them aren't born in the cloud. They make that transition, and with that complexity, there are opportunities for us to help out with that.

There are a number of different ways that partners can go to fulfill the solution, and at the end of the day, we want to help our partners drive IT efficiency and be more agile and have reliability to their end customers. 

[Related: Ingram Micro, VMware Team Up For Public Sector Solutions For Partners]

CRN: How are solution providers adopting the cloud? Is it a major part of their business offering or is it more of a side offering?

Bay: I think it’s an open bag. There are the born-in-the-cloud [businesses], where that's all their focused on and they're going out and getting new offerings. There are partners that I would say that are struggling with the traditional way that they've done business, and their business might not be as healthy as they would like it to be. They're trying to figure out how to make that transition [to recurring revenue].

I would say there [are] very successful companies that are doing very well selling their traditional way and are now trying to insert the cloud and/or services opportunity into future sales with new customers [and renewals]. It's really across the board.

Part of the challenge Ingram Micro and our partners have is that before they even reach out to customers, they believe they know what the answer is to the solution that they're trying to fulfill, which is a scary thing. That becomes a transactional conversation with the resellers, but that's not where they want to be.

We've got to help educate them and get them into the front end of that technology conversation, because whether they're looking at online reviews, or peer reviews, there's a plethora of information out there on the Internet. I'm talking to more and more partners who still say they're having to educate the end user who thinks they know what they need, but may not always have the right answer. We need to help them and we need to get out in front of that conversation with the end users before it becomes more of a transaction or...fulfillment opportunity. 

CRN: How does the hardware aspect come into the cloud conversation? Are VARs buying the hardware or are they relying on you to provide the hardware to end users?

Bay: They are buying it from us. If they're building private, we still sell all the technology. The resellers are buying through us to stand that up for their end users.

I think the technology conversation is a more exciting one and an interesting one right now because of the complexity in the offering and how quickly this industry is moving right now. [End users] may be able to go out and buy some of the solutions that are out there, but after you start getting more than two or three solutions, you need somebody like a trusted advisor to be able to fulfill that and help them tie in the entire solution. That's a ton of opportunity. 

NEXT: Google Apps vs. Office 365 and PC Sales


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