The 10 Most Important Tech Partnerships In 2018 (So Far)

Allied Command

No IT vendor can do it all. So strategic alliances are often a key to success for tech companies both large and small. And sometimes these partnerships – especially when one or both are industry heavyweights – can have a huge impact on the industry, including customers, the channel and competitors.

CRN has been keeping an eye on the headlines in search of partnership news. Here we take a look at 10 partnerships, some involving some big names in the industry and others smaller players, that are having an impact on the industry and the channel – or have the potential to do so. Some of these partnerships were formed this year while others were formed earlier and have continued to evolve in 2018.

(For more on the biggest news of 2018, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.")

T-Mobile And Nokia

T-Mobile signed a multiyear $3.5 billion deal with Nokia in July that clears the way for the third-largest carrier in the U.S. to develop 5G technology.

In what may be the biggest 5G deal so far, Nokia will help build T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network with 600MHz and 28GHz millimeter wave 5G capabilities.

T-Mobile is in the process of merging with Sprint in a $26 billion deal, posing a challenge to wireless providers AT&T and Verizon. The Nokia deal will allow the combined companies to offer 5G services to their customers, allowing more devices to connect to the internet and run at speeds of 1 Gbps.

VMware And AWS

Virtualization leader VMware and cloud services giant Amazon Web Services unveiled their hybrid cloud partnership in late 2016 and launched the service in late 2017, making VMware Cloud available on AWS. Since then the two companies have continued to expand the relationship in offered services and in how they work with the channel.

In March VMware introduced a professional certification for the joint hybrid cloud product, designed to incentivize partners and expand channel expertise in VMware Cloud on AWS. That move comes as VMware and AWS see their channel ecosystems merge around the joint service.

On the technology side, the vendors have provided new migration and disaster recovery services to VMware Cloud on AWS. The migration service allows customers to migrate workloads from on-premises VMware clusters to the cloud system. VMware also upgraded its Cost Insight tool for gaining visibility into cloud costs to support VMware Cloud on AWS.

The two companies are expanding VMware Cloud on AWS beyond North America into Europe.

Microsoft And Walmart

Microsoft and Walmart are giants in their respective industries, but they have one thing in common: a major competitor in Amazon.

Walmart and Microsoft inked a five-year cloud services partnership in July under which Walmart will build out its e-commerce capabilities by leveraging some of Microsoft's most advanced cloud services.

Walmart designated Microsoft its "preferred and strategic service provider" and committed to using multiple Microsoft cloud products, including Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Microsoft 365 Software-as-a-Service cloud applications.

Aryaka And China Mobile

SD-WAN technology developer Aryaka won a victory for the channel in April when it forged a partnership with China Mobile International that alleviates the confusion surrounding new Chinese regulations that limit cross-border communications.

The regulations, enacted in the name of protecting privacy, require that any cross-border communication into and out of China go through one of three Chinese telecommunications giants: China Telecommunications, China Unicom and China Mobile. That threatened to leave in the lurch SD-WAN providers – and their partners – who didn't work with those firms.

With the China Mobile deal, Aryaka partners can maintain the customer relationships they've spent years developing – both customers in China and customers with operations or business interests in China.

Apple And Google

In February Apple disclosed for the first time that it uses the Google Cloud Platform as part of the infrastructure for its iCloud storage service.

The iCloud service provides data backups for Apple devices including iPhones, iPads and Mac laptops. The partnership with Apple is seen as providing a market boost to Google Cloud Platform, which trails AWS and Microsoft Azure in market share.

Apple and Google are, of course, competitors in some areas. Mobile phones running Google's Android software are the major competitor to Apple's iPhones.

Atos And Google

IT services giant Atos established a partnership with Google Cloud in April aimed at driving the adoption of artificial intelligence within large companies.

Through the alliance Atos is building solutions in hybrid cloud, the digital workplace, and data analytics and machine learning. Atos is leveraging the Google Cloud platform in combination with its integration capabilities and technology expertise.

Atos is building three AI and machine-learning customer innovation labs and R&D centers in France, Britain and the U.S. to accelerate product development and go-to-market strategies.

Cisco And ConnectWise

Cisco Systems expanded its partnership with business automation powerhouse ConnectWise in April by offering MSP partners a dashboard for managing an entire portfolio of security systems.

The announcement is part of an alliance between the two companies, unveiled late last year, to streamline the creation of managed IT services for Cisco partners, based on Cisco's cloud management technology. That included offering the ConnectWise Unite with Cisco portal that helps Cisco partners and MSPs manage their business commerce operations.

The new ConnectWise Advanced Security Dashboard is designed to provide MSPs with a solution for managing Meraki MX firewalls, Cisco Umbrella, Stealthwatch Cloud, Cisco Adaptive Security appliances, next-generation firewalls and AMP for Endpoints.

Microsoft And Nimble

At first glance, Nimble and Microsoft would appear to be competitors in the market for CRM sales and marketing applications. But the two are actually allies and in July Nimble signed a global distribution agreement with Microsoft that lets solution providers bundle Nimble CRM with Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 applications.

Nimble markets its CRM apps for small businesses and probably doesn't intrude much on the market turf where Microsoft sells its Dynamics 365 ERP and CRM applications. Microsoft, meanwhile, has figured out that when channel partners sell Nimble in conjunction with Office 365, sales of the latter get a boost.

Nimble said that Tech Data, AppXite/ATEA, EMIT Solutions, QBS, Logicom, TechQuarter and Vuzion/Cobweb are among the Microsoft channel partners who are bundling Office 365 with Nimble CRM. NeoCloud, a leading Microsoft managed cloud services provider in the U.S., and Velosio, a Microsoft Master VAR, are also selling Nimble/Office 365 bundles.

Scale Computing And Unitrends

Looking to drive the sale of hyper-converged systems through the channel, Scale Computing formed a partnership with Unitrends under which Scale Computing added Unitrends' disaster recovery and backup technology to its flagship HC3 hyper-converged platform.

The partnership, unveiled in February, targets enterprise businesses looking for more advanced backup and recovery options by combining HC3 with Unitrends' Recovery Series software.

Scale Computing has been busy establishing strategic relationships. In May the company formed a partnership with APC by Schneider Electric to create a turnkey hyper-converged system that solution providers use to quickly scale capacity and computing power.

Xiaomi And Microsoft

Microsoft struck a deal with Xiaomi in February to work closely with the Chinese device manufacturer as it adds to the artificial intelligence services it offers customers and expands its global reach.

The deal, officially the Strategic Framework Memorandum of Understanding, is focused on delivering next-generation AI capabilities across Xiaomi mobile devices. The agreement also called for Xiaomi to "explore" using Azure as a cloud compute, storage and networking platform for growth into international markets.

As to development of new technologies, Xiaomi and Microsoft said they would explore multiple cooperative projects based on a broad range of Microsoft AI technologies, such as computer vision, speech, natural language processing, text input, conversational AI, knowledge graph and search, as well as related Microsoft products and services, such as Bing, Edge, Cortana, XiaoIce, SwiftKey, Translator, Pix, Cognitive Services and Skype.