SMB Partners Say Ingram Micro's New Cloud Charge Is A Mixed Bag

Ingram Micro SMB cloud partners said the distributor has hit a home run with a rollout of cloud services, partnerships and channel program additions. But many born-in-the-cloud Ingram Micro partners, attending the IT distributor's Cloud Summit 2014 in Hollywood, Fla., this week, are skeptics. They want details on pricing and are concerned a one-size-fits-all approach to buying, deploying and managing cloud services just won't work.

For Steve Panovski, co-owner of Ubix Technology, a Macomb, Mich.-based Ingram Micro partner and self-identified small VAR, said Ingram Micro is a perfect match for his SMB needs. Panovski said not only does Ingram Micro give him leverage with cloud vendors, but it also gives him access to Ingram Micro's line card of a la carte cloud services and the ability to manage those services through one Ingram Micro relationship.

"Ingram allows me to off-load worrying about keeping my IT up-to-date. My customer relationships have moved from being the guy fixing stuff in the back room to business- level discussions with customers about what IT investments will maximize their ROI." Panovski said his company is relying more on Ingram Micro to help him scale and is looking to triple his cloud business this year with the distributor's new cloud offerings.

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"Ingram Micro gives us the same leverage with cloud services as it does with hardware like servers and switches," Panovski said. "As a five-person shop, I can't get the Ciscos of the world to return my calls. But as an Ingram Micro partner I have channel clout, buying power and a trusted adviser to help me win more cloud business."

On Tuesday, Ingram Micro unveiled channel program updates, a partnership with Parallels, a revamp of its Cloud Marketplace, along with a new "white-glove" service for partners. Ingram Micro said it would leverage its recent SoftCom acquisition and will roll out its own hosted cloud services housed in its own data centers.

Shawn Walsh, CEO of Paradigm Computer Consulting, based in Nashua, N.H., said Ingram Micro cloud strategy is firing on all cylinders with a major overhaul to its Cloud Marketplace powered by Parallels’ Automation platform. Set to be introduced this quarter, the Cloud Marketplace allows partners to deploy private, public and hybrid cloud services that are part of Ingram Micro’s 70 vendors. The Parallels-powered marketplace gives partners post-sales tools, such as cloud support capabilities to deploy and manage cloud services and also meter and bill for them.

"My money goes to the vendor that can lower my stress levels the most," Walsh said. "Ingram Micro, for my money, looks like it’s going to keep me very happy. I’m impressed with the possibilities."

NEXT: Not All Partners Sold On Cloud Marketplace

But other Ingram Micro partners attending the Cloud Summit, who say the majority of their business is already cloud-based, told CRN they would have serious reservations about porting 100 percent of their cloud business to Ingram Micro. Those partners say the existing and upcoming Cloud Marketplace doesn't offer the precise type of controls they need to manage hosted cloud services.

Malik Khan, CEO of PointClick Technologies, who describes himself as a loyal Ingram Micro partner, said despite what the distributor says, he fears losing granular control over email, disaster recovery and security with a one-size-fits-all approach to account management.

"Being better at managing email, caring more than my competition about disaster recovery and security are ways I differentiate myself," Khan said. "If I park my cloud business with Ingram Micro, there are huge advantages when it comes to unified billing and management. But how do I know if Ingram Micro's as maniacal over security and disaster recovery as I am?"

Other Cloud Summit attendees expressed concerns about potential conflicts of interest over new hosting options rolled out by Ingram Micro, which include hosted Exchange, virtual private server, and web hosting powered by its recent SoftCom acquisition. The move puts the distributor, for the first time, in conflict with vendor partners such as 365 Main, Amazon, Intermedia, Microsoft, Rackspace and Reflexion.

"Ingram Micro is my trusted IT adviser," said Kevin Walsh, IT consultant with Host For You, a Poway, Calif.-based managed service provider. "If Ingram is tempted to put its own interests ahead of mine then that's something that worries me."

Nimesh Dave, Ingram Micro's executive vice president of Global Cloud Computing, said, "Reseller partners like having options. We aren't telling them, 'Take the Ingram solutions.' We are saying, 'Here are the choices that you have and here is the merit of every single solution. We let the customer decide what they want to purchase and from whom."