Tech Data Ramps Up Program To Help Avnet TS Partners Master Microsoft Azure, Legacy Partners Master AWS And IBM SoftLayer, Bluemix

Tech Data has accelerated efforts to acquaint Avnet Technology Solutions partners with Microsoft Azure and Office 365 and its legacy partners with Amazon Web Services and IBM SoftLayer and Bluemix.

The Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor took several dozen Technology Solutions partners and others through an intensive, two-day Microsoft Azure training in April, with an additional 35 partners signed up to get trained in Azure this month, according to Mike Ward, director of Tech Data Cloud.

"The legacy Avnet AWS partners already understand the cloud," Ward told CRN Wednesday during the TechSelect Spring 2017 Partner Conference. "So we can go right to really teaching them about the cloud in terms of the Azure language."

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Tech Data's $2.6 billion February acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions gave TS partners access to Microsoft's cloud offerings and traditional Tech Data partners access to Amazon and IBM's cloud offerings for the first time. And the distributor said it is working hard to enable partners around the extended line card.

"The future of IT is a hybrid environment, and it very likely is going to be a multi-cloud environment," said Stacy Nethercoat, vice president of Tech Data Cloud Solutions Americas. "Partners will benefit from enabling themselves to be in position to service their end users based on their needs and their environment."

Ward said the deep-dive Azure technical events strip away all of the basics in an effort to accelerate the time to market for legacy TS partners and others. The training attempts to leverage partners' Infrastructure-as-a-Service experience and is structured in terms of "this is how you do it in AWS, and this is how you do it in Azure," Ward said.

The Azure trainings are open to both legacy TS and Tech Data partners, Nethercoat said. There's no requirement to come in with previously cloud infrastructure experience, although Nethercoat said that's very common.

Similar efforts are also under way to get traditional Tech Data partners authorized on Amazon Web Services, IBM SoftLayer and IBM Bluemix. In fact, Nethercoat said the education business unit at Technology Solutions is one of just three training partners authorized by AWS around the globe.

But the first joint Tech Data-Technology Solutions win from a cloud perspective came thanks to an AWS-focused TS partner that also wanted to sell Microsoft Office 365, Ward said. The solution provider got on-boarded to Office 365 within 30 days of the late February close of the Tech Data acquisition, according to Ward.

"Office 365 is one of the largest Software-as-a-Service applications that Technology Solutions partners can immediately take advantage of," Ward said.

Although productivity tools such as Office 365 don't directly drive profitability, Ward said the deal unlocks the opportunity to resell ancillary services and solutions at a higher margin. Backup, recovery, security and anti-virus are some of the most complementary cross-sell opportunities around Office 365, Ward said.

"You're able to open up a whole extended line card of opportunities," Ward said.

Tech Data was historically strong around Software-as-a-Service, Nethercoat said, and had to make a serious effort over the past year to build out its Infrastructure-as-a-Service capabilities around Microsoft Azure. The additional technical resources and capabilities brought over from Technology Solutions will only accelerate this diversification effort, Nethercoat said.

Technology Solutions brings strong consulting capabilities to the table around cloud assessments, planning, strategy workshops and cloud-based managed services, Nethercoat said. Both organizations were strong around pre-sales engineering, Nethercoat said, while legacy Tech Data had resources dedicated to areas like application development and the implementation of hybrid and cloud services.

Partners should expect announcements in the coming months about additional cloud offerings available through Tech Data's cloud marketplace, Nethercoat said.

U.S. government customers of BahFed Corp. are typically reluctant to move workloads off-premise, but are more willing to consider Amazon Web Services given its brand reputation, according to Business Development Manager Sharon Vail.

"If it's someone that's been around, they're more willing to try something new," Vail said.

The Portland, Ore.-based partner would be interested in taking advantage of Tech Data's new capabilities around AWS so that it's capable of supporting federal customers in the public cloud once they're ready, Vail said.

BahFed will likely retrain existing engineers around Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Vail said, but with a headcount of just 20 people, she said the company will probably also bring in new employees who already have expertise around the cloud.