COMDEXvirtual: 10 Key Takeaways From Day One

COMDEX Is Back, Baby!

The colossal conference that conquered Las Vegas came back this week in virtual form. It's the first COMDEX event since 2003. COMDEXvirtual kicked off yesterday, and while it wasn't live in Las Vegas, it delivered the same high-caliber content and information that solution providers, VARs and IT pros have come to expect from the COMDEX legacy. From high-profile keynotes to panel discussions on the latest technologies to how VARs can take advantage of them and make some dough, COMDEXvirtual had it all.

COMDEXvirtual is hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

Here are 10 takeaways from Day One of COMDEXvirtual 2010.

The Clouds Are Forming

Cloud computing is the hottest tech transition of the decade, and nowhere was that more evident than at COMDEXvirtual, where panelists at the session "Cloud Computing Reality Check -- Separating Facts from Fiction" came to this conclusion: Cloud computing is here to stay, and VARs best get up to speed.

Phil Wainewright (pictured), vice president of Procullux Ventures, a British web services and consulting firm said VARs that don't "go cloud" risk being left behind.

"The cloud is all about being connected. It's all about participating in this connected 24-by-7 real-time world that we operate in now with a global scale with the ability to connect to customers and employees and partners and to be able to link up with them to tap into new resources as they come on line," he said. "If you don't have that connectivity into the cloud you're missing out really on the true benefits of cloud computing that make it distinctive."

Social Media Is A True Business Tool

Solution providers are using social media to boost visibility and drive business, they said during the COMDEXvirtual session "Social Media, Separating Fact From Fiction."

Dave Sobel (pictured), CEO of Evolve Technologies, Fairfax, Va., said a how-to video he posted to his Facebook page showing how to put Windows XP onto an Apple iPad drove 50,000 hits and 2,000 additional visitors, all of which could be potential customers down the line.

Meanwhile, Jessica Devita, owner of UberGeekGirl, a technology consultant in Santa Monica, Calif., said her use of social media tools like Twitter to engage like-minded individuals has given her new reach.

"It's because of the work I've done in social media, that when folks need help in Los Angeles for a client, whether it's a celebrity or a business, I know that they'll think of me," Devita said.

Symantec's Salem: Devices Take A Back Seat To People, Information

Symantec CEO Enrique Salem said what a lot of people are too scared to: The device doesn't really matter. Instead, Salem said it's people and information that will be most important as IT and technologies continue to evolve. This evolution will be driven by the boom of "mega-trends" like mobility, social networking and cloud computing.

"Everything will revolve around people and information," Salem said during his keynote presentation at COMDEXvirtual Tuesday. "The devices are not that important. Devices will come and go."

Salem continued: "We expect that everything will come together. Your business and personal digital persona will come together," he said. "We expect to be able to conduct our jobs and continue with our personal lives, and have simple and secure access to all the information we need at any time."

Go Mobile, Or Go Home

One message hammered home during COMDEXvirtual is that mobility is transforming business, and VARs need to start thinking of how applications support mobile platforms, provisioning those applications and the security of applications and the devices.

"As mobile line-of-business applications are being embedded in businesses, the networks that the mobile devices are depending on are no longer optional. [Cellular service] needs to work in your buildings," said Ed Carmody, mobile business solutions director for Axispoint.

Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, an analyst firm in Campbell, Calif., added: "Today the demands are getting access to information anytime, anywhere, and the industry has begun to respond with hardware, software and infrastructure to support this demand."

To make mobility easier, the panel recommended IT control and manage the mobility process; consider the wireless environment; weigh integration partners and examine how OSes and applications will be rolled out.

IBM: Cloud Isn't Just Smoke And Mirrors

If IBM made one key point at COMDEXvirtual, it's that the company is moving full steam ahead into cloud computing and it will do its best to bring solution providers with it.

During a COMDEXvirtual session, IBM director of cloud computing for the business partner organization Michael Heegaard said cloud computing is creating new opportunities for partners to become cloud component suppliers or cloud system builders, but they need to adapt to those new roles.

"The business models are different and the skills and the content you will need to be successful are different as well," he said. Heegaard said solution providers have to be "very deliberate" in deciding which model they'll adopt and to be prepared to make mistakes.

Heegaard added that IBM will offer a host of cloud computing enablement and training services to ensure that its stable of partners have the chops to attack the cloud.

When Mark Cuban Talks, You Listen

Former VAR turned Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner Mark Cuban took the COMDEXvirtual stage and offered up his insight on technology trends, being a successful salesman and how to make it in the channel.

Cuban's advice was simple and honest: know what you sell; discover the next big thing before the other guy, and you only need to be right once.

It's advice like that that made Cuban a billionaire, and information solution providers can take to heart to be successful.

Health Care Is Hot, If You Can Take The Heat

The health care market is heating up and if solution providers don't mind a challenge, they may strike gold.

"Let's face it, health care is the new gold rush," said Jill Kerr, vice president of industry development for Comptia during a panel at COMDEXvirtual Tuesday. "VARs and managed services providers know that there's gold in those hills ... However, most solutions providers I meet don't have the picks and shovels needed to mine the gold."

Kerr and fellow panelists MJ Shoer (pictured), president and virtual CTO of Jenaly Technology Group, a Portsmouth, NH-based solution provider; and Kevin McDonald, executive vice president and director of compliance practices at Alvaka Networks, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, urged VARs to seek out training and the tools necessary to tackle the health care in order to be successful.

HP VARs Are Seeing Dramatic Growth

Going all in with HP's end-to-end portfolio is giving VARs a boost, the company said during its COMDEXvirtual presentation Tuesday.

Partners that signed on with HP's full product portfolio saw sales grow at nearly three times the rate of other HP partners, said Meaghan Kelly, HP vice president of channel strategy and SMB of Americas Solution Partner Organization. Those "franchise" partners, Kelly said, saw average sales growth of 18.1 percent in 2010, compared to the 6.5 percent growth of other HP partners. Kelly said HP franchise partners are solution providers that drive more than 70 percent of their annual sales through HP.

"The empirical data shows that partners going all in with HP are growing faster and earning more," Kelly told the COMDEXvirtual crowd. "We look forward to finding more ways for them to do that in the future."

MSPs Are The Wave Of The Future

At COMDEXvirtual, a panel of managed service providers looked into the IT crystal ball and found that MSPs are in the best position to become major cloud players because they have already engaged their clients and have a level of control over the client IT infrastructure.

"It's a natural progression from MSP to cloud provider. Not every MSP is going to have to build their own data center or even rent data center space, but they better be good at being cloud managers," Ted Warner, president of Connecting Point, a Greeley, Colo.-based MSP, said during the "The Future Of Managed Services" panel at COMDEXvirtual. "Our managed clients are going to be demanding that we continue to manage what we do today but as more of their apps are delivered through cloud, we will be able to manage that for them."

VARs Will Be Virtualization Victors

A panel of analysts highlighted the ins and outs of virtualization technologies for servers, desktops, storage and the cloud and said that it will be solution providers that lead the virtualization charge for their customers.

Marcia Kaufman, partner and COO of Hurwitz & Associates said enterprises will turn to VARs for virtualization needs, creating new opportunities. "Many companies may have started with server virtualization, but when you need to bring together server virtualization, desktop virtualization, consider the storage, consider the application virtualization, there is a need to manage this environment," she said.

Rob Enderle (pictured), principal analyst at Enderle Group, added: "Do realize a lot of IT organizations are just coming up to speed on this technology … Where a VAR can add the most value is educating the customer on what's possible. Use your experience from other engagements and translate them into the customer environment."