It is a jungle out there. The competition has become ferocious, your margins hungrier and leaner, and your rivals positively serpentine. But according to CRN editor Sara Yirrell, Partner Connect's education programme should help channel partners map a path out of the darkness.
"All seminars are free to attend and will be held in the Jaguar Suite of the Ricoh Arena from 11am on 12 May. The Ricoh Arena hosts many large and prestigious events, and is really very centrally located, near Coventry," Yirrell says.
Weaving their way through the tangled vines of opportunity surrounding cloud computing, HP CTO David Chalmers with enterprise storage, servers and networking channel manager Kevin Matthews will explain how reseller partners can maximise their margins in relation to the rather nebulous trend.
Also in the session, dubbed ‘Surround Cloud', they will seek out what consistent earning opportunities still exist for the channel outside the cloud market, and make market predictions for the rest of this year and beyond.
"We have worked incredibly hard in cooperation with the Incisive Media events team on this programme -- and what came through consistently in all the conversations we had with vendors was the ongoing transition to the cloud, and alterations to all business models as a result," says Yirrell.
"Those that ignore cloud this year may risk using up some of their nine lives, that seems clear."
Hunt out the real meat
Wary partners should avoid chasing their own tails and hunt out the meatiest possibilities around cloud, according to Todd Thibodeaux, president and chief executive officer of global trade association CompTIA, who will also speak on the day.
"Increased targets and slashed budgets have led to end users turning to cloud computing to revolutionise their IT infrastructures, stimulate growth and reduce capex," he says. "How can resellers reform their business models to support a cloud offering?"
Thibodeaux will examine whether resellers should change their spots completely to develop their own cloud offerings, or focus on forming partnerships as the best way to move into a market which is heating up, and increasingly concentrating on hosted offerings of various stripes.
The sky's the limit, according to Microsoft. In the early afternoon, Microsoft's small to midmarket solutions and partner group general manager Barry Ridgway and head of technology for partners James Akrigg will look at how to really be profitable in this new era of computing -- which many say is the biggest shift in the market since the advent of the personal computer 30 years ago.
The duo will discuss how Microsoft sees cloud computing influencing the direction of the UK channel, and what its intentions are for its VARs and partners in relation to its latest cloud offering. Partners will be able to find out more on Microsoft's newest cloud offering and associated business-boosting tips.
The vendor promises to cover its journey through cloud technology all the way from BPOS to Office 365. "It will be about what we've learned and where we're going," says Akrigg. "And we will look at what's next for the channel."
King of the jungle
Another king of the global jungle, Google itself, will be presenting its stratospheric vision as well. ‘Flying high: Reaching the Atmosphere with Google' will map out the channel possibilities and look at how those opportunities will evolve in the wild.
Peter Lorant, head of enterprise partners at Google Enterprise UK [pictured], says vendor-reseller relationships depend on developing increased transparency and a shared vision. "This is especially true when dealing with cloud," Lorant warns. "But we will also look at what Google is doing to assist resellers."
He will give an overview of Google Enterprise's UK channel strategy around its cloud based Google Apps and explain what it will all mean for resellers. Google Apps can be profitable for the channel, and Lorant will explain how.
No channel conference can be complete without hearing the voices and views of the VARs and services providers themselves. George Ilko, founder and chief technology officer of four-year-old firm Vitality Consulting Services, was initially very concerned about whether cloud can provide the ephemeral pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - especially when it comes to margins.
PartnerConnect will delve into the experiences of the Cambridge based provider, and Ilko -- a former EMEA technical director for Deluxe Digital Services, which delivered Fox's Ice Age 2: The Meltdown - will root out how best to expand a managed services portfolio.
With market research giant IDC having said the SaaS market will reach $40.5 billion (£25.2 billion) globally by 2014 - just 2.5 years away - with IaaS and PaaS also gaining momentum. Ilko will answer whether migration is the only option for an endangered channel ecosystem, and what is likely to prove the best evolutionary adaptation for individual companies.
Ilko will also be able shine light on the where the revenue are likely to come from after becoming a cloud-focused operation. He will ask how resellers can reevaluate their business models without spending too much money -- and creating inadvertent extinction.
IDC expects just 15 per cent of new software firms by 2012 will ship a packaged product. By 2014, about 34 per cent of all new business software purchases will be via SaaS, and SaaS delivery will comprise 14.5 per cent of worldwide software spend.
SaaS has become mainstream, and is quickly coming to dominate the planning - from research and development, to sales quotas, and partnering -- of all software and services vendors, according to the research giant.
IBM is never far from the action in most new technology developments. Simon Baker, software group leader for cloud at Big Blue, says it expects cloud to represent a major opportunity as soon as 2012. Customers want to be more service-oriented, more efficient, more responsive to changes and more innovative than ever.
A need for evolving IT
CRN's Yirrell says the day will wrap up with a panel session on how best to target the tech deals growing out of the massive changes to public sector procurement processes and investment. Despite the budget cuts, the diversity of challenges can mean only one thing: a need for evolving IT systems and technologies.
Servium managing director -- and Channel Awards Personality of the Year in 2010 -- Paul Barlow [pictured, with Yirrell], and Gryllus manager for NHS IT Chris Reynolds have been confirmed as padding quietly into the Ricoh Arena to make themselves available for in-depth questioning from an eager audience. The other participants are likely to be announced soon.
One thing for sure, if VARs can cut costs without affecting service standards they stand the best chance this year of becoming the biggest cat -- the one that got the cream -- and winning by more than a whisker.
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