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How 8 Distributors Are Tackling The Cloud

Eight distributors reveal their plans of action to get themselves to the cloud.

CRN talked to top executives at eight IT distributors to find out how they are approaching cloud computing and carving out their own roles within the evolving technology landscape.

Check out more of CRN's cover package on distributors and the cloud

Here's a look at their game plans:

Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics' Enterprise Computing Solutions group launched its cloud computing services initiative in summer 2010 under the Arrow Fusion brand with data center monitoring and management, Security-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and business continuity and disaster recovery solutions.

We have our feet more than wet in our portfolio of cloud-based services. That's more of an evolving market and it will take time to play out, but if you think of cloud infrastructure, the next gen of consolidation, virtualization and security, we are most involved in that, said Sean Kerins, president of Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, North America.

The distributors Fusion Cloud Services, offered through Arrow's professional services team, provide a high level of compliance via secure monitoring and management services and a secure Web portal that provides a complete view of monitoring and management activities in customer environments.

Arrow also offers an entry-level Foot In The Door service to help customers solve more immediate issues. The service is nonthreatening to IT staff, according to the distributor.

Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions also has resources under its Empower VAR enablement program to educate solution providers on how to sell cloud opportunities, Kerins said. We will help them build out private cloud infrastructure and help them by being an extension of their services model, he said. We are in the space of building cloud infrastructure, investing in our own virtual bench.

In August, Arrow acquired the Technology Innovation unit of InScope International, adding about 75 employees focused on infrastructure delivery, Kerins said. A lot of companies have spent the last few years virtualizing servers, consolidating storage. Now it's time to take it to a higher level. There are more opportunities and tools to help them do that on an automated basis, he said.

NEXT: Avnet Technology Solutions


Avnet Technology Solutions

Rather than offer market-ready solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions, whose solution providers serve midmarket and enterprise customers, is concentrating on helping solution providers build their own cloud solutions.

The distributor has a comprehensive suite of educational offerings under its CloudReady brand to help solution providers better understand and market cloud-based solutions. The educational sessions include cloud foundation, sales and engineering tracks as well as a one-day strategy workshop for end users.

It's a major initiative for us. When you talk about the cloud and distribution, its analogous to the outsourcing of IT services and data centers. That fits squarely with what we do from a distribution standpoint. There is some complexity around the cloud, but the bottom line is we have major initiatives going [on] with the cloud, said Phil Gallagher, senior vice president and global president of Avnet Technology Solutions.

In addition, Avnet offers resources to end users, on behalf of solution providers, such as a three-week Cloud Assessment professional services engagement that formulates cloud adoption objectives and goals, assesses current processes and technology, identifies the changes that need to occur and calculates costs and return on investment of a proposed project.

While Avnet currently focuses on helping solution providers build their own solutions, Gallagher does not rule out partnering with third-party cloud service providers in the future. I can foresee us building alliances in the marketplace. If it makes sense for us to host, then we will host. If it makes sense to provide capital expenditures in a data center that we partner with, then thats fine. I don't think it's an or scenario; it's an and, Gallagher said.

Avnet also has initiatives around its biggest vendor partners, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Microsoft, to help those companies provide the infrastructure in cloud solutions, he said. It's around solving problems and issues. All that we do every day is think about what the next hurdle for our customers is. I see cloud as one of those transformative offerings, Gallagher said.

NEXT: D&H Distributing


D&H Distributing

D&H Distributing believes the cloud will be complementary to on-premise infrastructure, especially for mission-critical information and more especially for small businesses, the primary target of the distributors solution provider customers.

For that reason, D&H is focused on enabling those solution providers to build SMB cloud solutions and working with vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco Systems to drive the products that make up that infrastructure, said Dan Schwab, co-president of D&H.

A lot of confusion that has existed for the SMB reseller is making sure the cloud fits their business model because at the end of the day, theyve got finite resources. Its their job to make sure that when they deploy their focus on [cloud], it fits their business and they can actually enable their customers, Schwab said. Our role is really to connect the dots in the solution. We don't view our role for ourselves as creating a huge network operating center and doing all the downloads ourselves. I don't believe that's a core competency for a distributor like D&H.

However, D&H is talking to third-party cloud providers to see if there are ways to bring those services to D&H solution providers, Schwab said.

D&H also is looking to enable solution providers to build cloud solutions for vertical market applications such as health care. We just finished our health care vertical summit and all the vendors there had some type of cloud offering.

It helped the different customers there understand what the different ways to go to market are, what the different strategies are. Now they can take that information and information on our Web site -- we have an entire section for cloud -- and figure out where cloud fits in, Schwab said.

NEXT: Ingram Micro


Ingram Micro

Ingram Micro started down the annuity-based services path almost four years ago with its managed services program, an initiative that has greatly expanded to now include cloud solutions. As many MSPs have evolved to become cloud providers so, too, has Ingram Micro.

Close to 3,000 solution providers are now buying at least one of Ingram Micro's Infrastructure-as-a-Service or Software-as-a-Service-based services and the distributor offers more than 50 services from 25 vendors in its Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, according to Greg Spierkel, CEO of the distributor Ingram Micro CEO To Step Down As Veteran Executive Assumes Role.

Most recently, Ingram Micro added Kaseya's IT systems management tools for MSPs and cloud-based solutions from security stalwarts Symantec and Trend Micro.

Right now, we're pretty happy. We're putting [together] a nice portfolio for VARs and we have a good billing engine, Spierkel said.

Ingram Micro views its customer base as divided into cloud service brokers that dont want to deliver the solution but want to resell the services of another provider, and cloud providers that want to deliver the whole solution, said Ren�e Bergeron, vice president of managed services and cloud computing at Ingram Micro. The distributor's business is pretty evenly split between the two in terms of transactions, Bergeron said.

Our portfolio addresses both. If you're a broker and you want to resell the service desk, we offer a partnership with Fujitsu. If you're a provider and want to offer that service, we partner with BMC with Remedyforce, an incident tracking system software provided in the cloud, Bergeron said. On the hosting side, if you want to resell IBM or Rackspace as a provider, you can do that. If you want to leverage someone else, VMware's [Service Provider Program] can help virtualize into a private cloud.

For 2012, Ingram Micro expects to see traction -- and more solutions to offer -- in business applications from CRM to ERP to supply chain management and e-learning, Bergeron said. The company also expects to build a deeper vertical cloud solution portfolio, she added.

Whether it's EMR for health care or property management or legal applications, weve built up a road map of solutions we want to bring to market, Bergeron said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: At press time, CRN learned that CEO Greg Spierkel was no longer with the company. Go to Ingram Micro CEO To Step Down As Veteran Executive Assumes Role

NEXT: ScanSource


ScanSource

ScanSource's cloud-selling strategy is two-pronged. First, the distributor is talking with several cloud services vendors with plans to launch a portfolio of services available to solution providers this year, said Mike Ferney, vice president of merchandising at Catalyst Telecom, a division of ScanSource.

Second, ScanSource is building and testing cloud infrastructure designs that solution providers can leverage to sell private clouds to customers.

Our resellers are selling hardware [already]. We put the pieces together. Traditionally, the need was to go to one source for a server, another source for the VMware, another source for the switch and another again for storage. Weve been working with several vendor partners to put together an integrated solution, really a private cloud in a box, Ferney said.

ScanSource believes that by helping with the heavy lifting and proactively tackling potential integration issues, it can save solution providers time in the field and save manufacturers time in getting their cloud solutions to market, Ferney said.

Our resellers see it as a way to shift some of their resources away from costly integration and more toward front-end selling. Traditionally, [manufacturers] use us to pick, pack and ship. This high-level value-add that we can offer can deliver something to both reseller and vendor, Ferney said.

ScanSource also has expanded plans to educate solution providers on cloud opportunities in 2012, he said, and has posted several Cloud Basics blogs on its Web site. Most [VARs] we work with today are already experts in one area or another. They're already experts in virtualization or storage or switches. Its a matter of pulling all the disciplines together and seeing how they all fit. That's where we can really help them, Ferney said.

Finally, ScanSource can help VARs market their cloud capabilities to end users, he said. What they need [is help] positioning themselves to be your trusted adviser, then your job is to go out and pull those pieces together. Thats what our partners are best at, Ferney said.

NEXT: Synnex


Synnex

Synnex is placing its cloud bets on its own proprietary platform, CloudSolv, a billing and provisioning tool built on Microsoft Azure that automates the ability to bundle multiple cloud services.

Cloud-based developers can leverage Synnex's open APIs to bring their applications under one roof to make it easy for solution providers, said Rob Moyer, vice president of cloud computing programs at Synnex. But the big differentiator for Synnex is that CloudSolv is built from an end-user perspective looking back to the channel, Moyer added.

We've built a partner control panel where the partner can merchandise their own apps store. You'll never see a general apps marketplace on a Synnex site, but we will provide a site where [end users] can manually buy [cloud-based applications], he said.

Solution providers can add their own services SKUs into their customizable marketplace, he added. It's very flexible. Say you want an e-mail, security and storage offering and you wanted to bundle that with your own professional services. You can create SKUs and say here's your own monthly SKU and monthly fee for that, Moyer said.

End users also have access to their own unique digital lockers where they can access and control their respective cloud apps, Moyer said. Once they've bought something, they can go in and configure their service. This is the one area everyone comes back to us and says this is exactly what we were looking for, Moyer said.

CloudSolv leveraged Microsoft's Azure technology because it provided a stable environment with Microsofts strong support, Moyer said. We fully anticipate that as Azure ISVs come to market, they'll be able to build to our marketplace very quickly, Moyer said.

NEXT: Tech Data


Tech Data

Tech Data believes solution providers fall into three camps -- cloud resellers, cloud providers and cloud builders -- and has a standard fare of offerings for each camp under its TDCloud brand.

The distributor defines a cloud reseller as a company looking to leverage existing public cloud infrastructures with minimal investment; a cloud provider as a company that has invested in its own infrastructure and wants to offer cloud services on a recurring revenue basis; and a cloud builder as a company selling servers, storage, networking, security and more to build private clouds for end-user customers.

Earlier this year, Tech Data launched TDCloud Academy with Microsoft to help solution providers develop their practice in one of those three areas.

Tech Data believes its have-it-your-way attitude will attract the attention of solution providers of all types.

In addition, Tech Data is poised to launch StreamOne 2.0, an upgraded version of its software sales platform capable of selling cloud services in a solution store format, according to Joe Quaglia, senior vice president of marketing at Tech Data.

The distributor has more than 20 vendors signed to sell cloud services through StreamOne and expects that number to increase exponentially in 2012, Quaglia said.

What's really neat is the vendor or cloud provider has total visibility into what's being sold. The VAR is in total control of provisioning and adding and removing services across their customer base, he said.

Later in the first quarter, Tech Data plans to update StreamOne again to enable solution providers to create their own storefronts for customers to purchase software and services.

Some people think [the cloud] is a threat. Others think it's a game-changing opportunity. Tech Data is in the game-changing bucket, said Bob Dutkowsky, CEO of Tech Data.

NEXT: Westcon


WESTCON GROUP

Westcon Group has deployed a cloud services aggregation portal in the United Kingdom and plans to open a portal in the U.S. in early 2012, according to the distributor.

Westcon was an early adopter of cloud services internally and sees challenges for traditional solution providers looking to bring together a number of disparate point solutions into a customer-specific offering, not just a generic one, said Dean Douglas, CEO.

Early testing of Westcon's platform to do just that has drawn raves from VARs in the U.K., he said.

Once they've [built a customer-specific offering] and know how to keep current and provision and know what to bill, how to add users, delete users, add new capabilities, delete some capabilities, that's where our integration platform really makes a difference, Douglas said.

We are very confident as we bring this to market that the reseller community will find value in this platform. We've integrated into our ERP system, providing a pulse to the vendor and managing the building of the solution.

In a December blog post on LinkedIn, CTO Richard Sloane said Westcon has focused on three areas while building the platform: identifying and investing in mature cloud markets, helping resellers transition to cloud-based business models and developing new capabilities to help vendors bring their cloud services to market.

Rather than simply filling our cloud services catalog with all available services, we're focusing on the most mature cloud services (i.e., market-ready), under the assumption these are easiest for partners to market and sell to customers, Sloane wrote.

As other cloud services reach maturity, we'll add them to our catalog. This iterative approach maximizes our investment and forces Westcon to stay close to markets as they develop, he added.

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