Scenes From XChange Americas: Day 1

It's That Time Again

XChange Americas kicked off Sunday at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Dallas. One of the year's most anticipated channel events, it brings together VARs, MSPs, integrators and other solution providers with top channel vendors and distinguished members of the analyst community for three days of in-depth discussion and networking. Each day of the show, will bring you a visual recap of the previous day's major events, as well as a look at what you missed if you weren't there.

Here's a rundown from Sunday, Day 1 of the show, where everything, from registration (pictured) on into the sessions, was humming.

Ten Hut!

Select attendees were invited to participate in Everything Channel's Cloud Computing Boot Camp, which featured sponsorship from AMD, ConnectWise, Microsoft, NetSuite and Novell. A panel hosted by Everything Channel Senior Vice President, Strategic Content Robert DeMarzo (left), brought insight from (left to right) Taylor Cowan (Microsoft), Tim Mueting (product marketing manager, AMD), Arnie Bellini (CEO, ConnectWise) and Richard Whitehead (director of product marketing for Novell).

Definitely Cloudy

Ryan Morris, a veteran of Everything Channel's Institute for Partner Education & Development (IPED) and also of Morris Management Partners, offered a researcher's perspective on the pace of cloud computing adoption -- and the strength of cloud as a revenue model -- for the channel.

Reaching The Zenith

Before XChange officially got under way, several vendors hosted private, pre-event workshops. One came from Akash Saraf, managing director and CEO of Zenith Infotech, which Saraf launched in 1996.

More Power

Brooke Lang, global IT channel manager for Eaton, didn't mince words during his pre-event workshop: Power consumption can represent a major opportunity for channel partners, especially in tricky enterprise and public-sector data centers.

Get Oriented

Solution provider orientation was sponsored by Dell and brought a few words from Dell's director of enterprise architecture, Bob Skelley.

Heard In The Halls

Richard Torbett, president of Networking and Computer Connection, a Johnson City, Tenn.-based solution provider, said he was seeking new vendors, especially related to telecom.

"We are starting to get customers asking for hosted PBX and hosted SIP," Torbett said. "I also want to see what vendors are doing to grow their business this year."

Passing Thoughts

The HP vs. Cisco rivalry was top of mind for Gordon Martin, president of Peak Uptime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based solution provider.

’My question is: Is HP for real? Do they really want to take on Cisco? If they do, it’s going to be fun," Martin said. "They said they are going to disrupt the market and when you disrupt the market, it means significant investment in marketing and talking to customers. That means opportunity for the channel.’

Tea Leaves

Gartner Vice President Tiffani Bova kicked off the conference with a general session titled "Reading The Tea Leaves: Gaining Competitive Advantage," an in-depth session examining how the changing IT landscape is informing channel business and where solution providers should place their focuses over the next year or two. One key takeaway? Saving money is still key for many customers, but the emphasis is less on cutting costs and more on maximizing what they already have.

Reality Check

Steve Harper, president of Network Management Group, a Hutchinson, Kan.-based solution provider, said the cloud message was resonating, but the question of profitability was still an issue.

"We want cloud services validation," Harper said. "I want to see if it’s a profitable model and what percentage of my business I should take to the cloud. It is not just about percentages. It is about dollars. A 100 percent markup on a $3 item is not the same as a 10 percent margin on a $50 item.’


Mission Midmarket

Everything Channel's DeMarzo also led a session focused on the perspectives of midmarket CIOs, who said they are more reliant than ever on solution provider partners to help them innovate in an era of tight IT budgets. Participating in the panel were Andrew Madejczyk, vice president of global technology operations for Sterling Infosystems, Michael Skaff, CIO of the San Francisco Symphony, and Randy Reed, vice president of information systems for Securities America.

Skaff put it thus: "Budgets are very tight. More than ever we are being pushed to be more efficient. A lot of IT budgets are moving from capital expenditures to operating expenses. That's an uncomfortable change for some organizations."

Close Attention

This year, XChange Americas is featuring several exclusive sessions as part of a paid-admission, premium executive content track. The first day's premium content session featured Mike Schmidtmann, business consultant with 4-Profit, who addressed participants on the hiring mistakes they should avoid when it comes to recruiting new salespeople.

Powell Up

David Powell, vice president, managed services at TekLinks, a Homewood, Ala.-based solution provider, led a breakout session on managed services potential: how managed services have changed the channel over the past decade and what the future holds for MSPs. Powell's assertion? VARs need to build repeatable managed services solutions, he said, and treat them as if they were spec houses: build a couple of models, and keep dishing 'em out.

Microsoft's Cloud Swagger

The message from Microsoft? Help your customers move to the cloud, said Eric Martorano (right), director, U.S. channel strategy, marketing and online services. Martorano cited statistics from AMI Research indicating that cloud spending among SMBs will hit $100 billion by 2014 -- and Microsoft intends to have both itself and its channel partners in a position to capture that business.

Martorano later chatted on stage with Don MacNeil (left), managing partner with Houston-based Strategic SaaS, which describes itself as a cloud service broker and according to MacNeil sells Microsoft's entire stack of cloud-based products and services.

In Tune With InTune?

Long Tran, group manager for Microsoft's TS2 partner technology advisory team, showed off Windows InTune, a recently announced software offering for securing and manage PCs with Windows cloud services and Windows 7.