Ingram Micro's VentureTech Network: Cloud Talk In The Windy City

VentureTech in Chicago

More than 350 Ingram Micro VentureTech Network members gathered in Chicago recently for the organization's Spring Invitational conference. As you might expect, a lot of discussions focused on the cloud, but solution providers also shared their own tips on how to improve their businesses. Here's a look at what went on at the show.

Technology Bake-Off

Jim Veraldi, executive vice president of Micro Strategies in New Jersey (right), relishes the fact that Ingram Micro's U.S.-based employees recently handily beat a team of their Canadian counterparts in a hockey game. Rob Bracey of Quartet Service in Toronto looks on. Both men, VentureTech Council presidents, talked about a technology bake-off that will occur at regional events over the summer and culminate in winning teams squaring off at the VTN Fall Invitational in Las Vegas. VARs can enter by detailing a case study for a panel of judges and VentureTech will build a library of winning proposals that members can access at any time.

CEO's Message

Greg Spierkel, Ingram Micro's CEO, regularly stays for two days at VentureTech to talk to as many customers as possible. During a keynote in Chicago, he told the crowd of VARs that big opportunities still lie in cloud computing, mobility and data center solutions.

"Our strategy is to be the leading cloud aggregator for the channel. For 30 years, we've been that in the channel for hardware and software," Spierkel said. "We have invested a significant amount to play a key role with the vendors."

Cloud Is A Journey

Ralph Nimergood, vice president of data center/virtualization and cloud go-to-market, Cisco Worldwide Partner organization, cited Gartner research that said 50 percent of CIOs expect to operate the majority of their applications and infrastructure in the cloud by 2015, but warned VARs that they need to progress along with customers.

"One of the fundamental tenets is that the private cloud road leads through virtualization. You need to take [customers] through the virtualization experience, consolidation, automation," he said. "Be in tune with customers but don't run from one side to the other and step over consulting business, data center assessments. This is still going to be the bread and butter for this community's business for 'X' number of years."

Customers Won't Wait

Renee Bergeron, vice president of cloud computing and managed services at Ingram Micro, noted that the cloud has accelerated solution delivery times and reduced the time customers are willing to wait.

"Long gone are the days when if you have a great idea you could have six, 12 or 18 months to bring it to market," she said. "With cloud, you can skip all the steps associated with procuring hardware, installing, configuring and testing. The environment is already [virtually] in place."

IBM Wants More VARs

Harris Warsaw, vice president, general business Americas from IBM, sporting a tuxedo, told VentureTech members that IBM was offering them free for 60 days the backup and recovery service that was announced at VentureTech.

Warsaw noted that IBM is still looking for solution providers to sell hardware, software and services.

"One thing that hasn't changed is customers want to buy from you. They don't want to buy directly from us. And they expect you to keep up on technology and make the right choices on partnerships," Warsaw said.

Mobile App-ortunity

Tiffani Bova, vice president of research, worldwide indirect channel programs and sales strategies at Gartner, noted that the top strategic technology areas for 2011 are cloud computing, mobile applications and media tablets, next gen analytics and social analytics.

In particular, she advised solution providers to get more involved with application development for mobile devices. "If you don' thave that mobile app development capability, your customers will feel you won't match their needs," she said.

Microsoft's Cloud Message

Eric Martorano, senior director of channel strategy, marketing and online services at Microsoft, also rallied around the cloud flag, noting that 25 percent of new software will be delivered as a service by the end of 2011, according to Gartner.

He said Microsoft's CRM Online, launched in January, has seen great momentum in the SMB space. "It's specifically designed for organizations to amplify their productivity. It provides a familiar user experience to [those using] on-premise solutions," Martorano said.

Driving Deeper

John Fago, Ingram Micro senior director of channel marketing in North America, points out a photo in VentureTech's daily update during an opening session. Fago told the 350 VARs on hand that he wants each company to drive VentureTech deeper within their own organizations.

"Going from 350 members to 3,500 active participants is a really big deal. We are working aggressively to make it easier to engage within the community," he said.

A VAR's Story

Nathan Stallings (right), regional sales manager at Matrix Integration, a Jasper, Ind.-based VAR, formulated a strategy with the help of KLA Group's Kendra Lee (left), to help the solution provider penetrate new markets and improve its success rate with new clients. He shared his success with other VentureTech members.

As a result of the initiative, Matrix Integration closed more than $150,000 in sales from new clients, Stallings said."That may not sound like a lot, but it's customers that six or seven months ago were not doing any business with us and there's more revenue in the pipeline. That's just what we've closed today," Stallings said.

HP's Channel Growth

Frank Rauch, HP's vice president of Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN) channel sales, told VTN members that they helped grow the ESSN business more than $1 billion year-over-year in the Americas. He also noted that more than 50 percent of ESSN's revenue comes from the channel and cautioned solution providers not to read too much into Oracle's decision not to support Itanium anymore.

"Don't let Oracle's announcement distract you. My advice to you is if you feel the same way as I do about your customers and your investment, write Oracle and tell them how you feel. We need to get them to reverse the decision. That would be good for us, good for you, good for customers," Rauch said.

Member Tech Showcase

Three VentureTech Network members showcased their own internally-developed solutions at the conference. At the XiloCore booth, the discussion centered around data protection and business recovery solutions.

Green Cube

Two Syracuse-area VentureTech members, CXtec and Teracai, have collaborated on Green Cube, an IT asset management and e-waste disposal and recycling initiative. Green Cube lets you load up to 1,000 pounds of computers, monitors, printers, telephones and more into a single box, which Green Cube then disposes in a secure and environmentally-friendly manner.

Sherlock Systems

Dave Sallander, president and CEO of Sherlock Systems, a Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based VAR, also makes a variety of rackmount, desktop and custom chassis and platforms, as well as digital signage media players and appliances.

'Make it Rain, Baby'

Ingram Micro showed a "documentary," now available on YouTube, to show how much their executives know about the cloud computing market. Sort of.