Consumerization Of IT A Double-Edged Sword For The Channel

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The consumerization trend points to future growth for security, infrastructure, and networking service providers. But its more immediate effect on the channel, particularly on traditional resellers and system builders, may not be such a positive one.

Allan Walters, senior vice president at Saratoga Technologies, a Johnson City, Tenn.-based solution provider, told CRN that his business is split into thirds: one third traditional VAR, one third managed services, and one third cloud services. Walters said he is seeing a small amount of growth in each of these areas due to the BYOD trend, but hasn’t noticed a significant jump in business just yet.

Part of this, Walters noted, could be that his client base doesn’t include major enterprises, so demand for outside support of a massive roll-out of mobile devices simply isn’t there. But Saratoga Technologies is still receiving a growing number of case-by-case requests for BYOD-related networking, he said.

"How we see [BYOD] is one of our clients calls up and says, 'hey, I bought an iPad this weekend and I can’t get my email, can you set it up?' And so that’s what we’re getting, is really lots and lots of one-off, 'hey, I just got this can you help me set it up?' And so it might be extra revenue initially, it might be a small amount of extra revenue in an on-going fashion," Walters said. "But it’s so small; it’s just a nice added bit of revenue. It’s not a huge, changing-the-world kind of thing."

But the BYOD might be a changing-the-world kind of thing for traditional resellers, Walters said, whose PC businesses may take a hit as more and more mobile devices replace traditional desktops and laptops in the workplace.

"If you’re an old, old school VAR, where you actually make a substantial part of your money in the actual selling of products, my complete assumption would be that this is probably negatively impacting your business because more and more of these [mobile] devices are readily available through retail channels, and so your ability to kind of command the 'I’m-the-only-place-in-town-to-buy-this' thing is completely diminished," Walters explained.

Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based solution provider, affirmed Walter’s line of thinking, saying the explosion of mobile devices into the corporate world has certainly "been an adjustment" on the custom-built PC side of his business. "Obviously, the entire client side of the PC industry is changing with the advent of smartphone and tablets, which is affecting all of us selling custom PCs for a living," he told CRN.

Swank noted that he has seen the "writing on the wall" for years now – as far back as the introduction of notebooks, even – and luckily is able to counter the hit on his custom PC business with growth in other areas, such as high-performance computing (HPC) and servers.

"Our business has continued to grow," he said. "Our whitebox PC business has tailed off, but growth in high-performance computing has helped offset that."

The BYOD trend may force traditional resellers to explore new avenues of business, but Walters does believe consumerization will eventually award service providers more revenue. As more and more security breaches arise as a result of business users working remotely from iPads and other mobile devices, the need for security management services will most definitely rise. "As people get burned," he said, "their attitudes will change."

But for now, any additional business his company receives as a result of the BYOD movement is simply an addendum to the rest of its agenda.

"It’s good, it’s positive, we’ll take it," Walters said. "But right now more it’s more like icing on the cake as opposed to another layer."

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