Scenes From XChange 2014

Deep In The Heart Of Texas

Over 250 solution providers gathered in San Antonio last week for the XChange 2014 conference, where they dug into the challenges of business transformation in the cloud era, shared best practices with their peers and got a taste of some down-home Texas barbeque to boot. Hosted by The Channel Company, CRN's parent company, XChange 2014 brought together some of the IT channel's leading voices. Here's a look at what went on in the Lone Star State.

Dell's Channel Sales Really Cooking

Dell is growing its channel business faster than its direct business, said Cheryl Cook, vice president of global channels and alliances during a keynote address.

The company has maintained its edge in traditional areas of strength, growing year-over-year global PC sales by 13 percent, Cook said, while at the same time driving partners to invest in new product areas.

Line-of-business registrations have increased by 175 percent since Dell began allowing solution providers in February to register storage, networking and software products.

The company has also tripled its win rate against IBM since Big Blue unveiled plans in January to sell its server business to Lenovo.

Microsoft Eyes Megatrends

Eric Martorano, general manager for Microsoft's partner sales (right), told a packed hall of solution providers gathered to hear Microsoft's keynote on Monday morning at XChange that it's "the start of a new era" for the software giant.

Microsoft is changing, Martorano said, and "on a great track" to capitalize from the four "megatrends" in the market: mobility, social, cloud and big data.

Later in the keynote, Martorano invited onto the stage Steve Ellis, executive vice president of Infusion, a global system integrator based in New York.

Ellis said Infusion shows its customers "that innovation is absolutely possible. It's not something they need to be afraid of; it's something they could embrace."

What Can You Accomplish In Three Minutes?

You can learn a lot in three minutes, or so AirTight Networks demonstrated during its Quick Fire Session. The company brought up two people from the audience, one of whom learned how to play an electric guitar solo while the other learned how to use AirTight's software. Hey, the solo wasn't half bad!

Yea, Team!

Connectwise's ModernOffice cheered for the power of teamwork during its Quick Fire Session, extolling the virtues of working together as a metaphor for its own business model, which joins technology from ConnectWise, LabTech and Quosal into a business automation platform.

Yoga Flash Mob

Brand Ambassador Ashley Rodrigue got solution providers' blood pumping with a little yoga during Lenovo's Tech Symposium, in honor of the vendor's Yoga convertible laptop series.

Rootin'-Tootin' Cowboy

A cowboy shows off his lasso tricks on the Solutions Pavilion show floor.

Cloud Transformation

Cliff Sweazey (center), executive vice president of Innovative Integration, an $8 million Indianapolis-based solution provider that has moved to a cloud computing services model, said during a panel discussion with Channel Company CEO Robert Faletra the changes in buying behavior precipitated by the cloud has shattered the old solution provider system integration business model.

"It used to be all about the relationship -- you were a trusted IT adviser, and customers looked to you to say what is out there," Sweazey said. "Vendors supplied the marketing materials. Now look at the statistics on self-driven research: Customers are determining what before they ever decide on a who, and often it is not the original people we had the relationship with. It is not just a CIO or CTO decision anymore."

Here's To You

Cisco Vice President of Strategy and Partner Experience Faisal Hanafi leads a toast ahead of the CRN 2014 Annual Report Card Awards ceremony.

The Big Winners

Executives from the winners of CRN's 2014 Annual Report Card awards pose with their hard-won trophies.

Good Times With Good Friends

Solution providers gather to celebrate the evening with friends, colleagues and peers during the Sophos VIP After Party.