Warehousing, credit and logistics - that is what distribution was all about before the cloud came along. But then, everything changed. That's according to Ingram Micro, which claims distributors have had to fight the perception that they have no role - or, at least, a much smaller one - in the future of the IT channel.
According to the figures from IDC, in Q1 this year, spending on cloud infrastructure accounted for a third of all IT spending, so there is no denying the trend is taking over.
The rise of cloud caused some concern among distributors, according to Ingram's cloud director for northern Europe Apay Obang-Oyway (pictured).
"There was certainly a view that distribution would certainly not be relevant in the market today," he said.
"I think there's the perception - and reality - about how distributors have been used in the past: a great big technology warehouse, a bank of credit and logistics. That, in a very broad sense, has been the use of distribution as far as the channel [has been concerned] for a while."
Industry body CompTIA released research last year which claimed that distributors will continue to play a crucial role in the channel. When asked what cloud-related services they want from their disties, 57 per cent of VAR respondents said support. Another quarter said they wanted their distributors to take on relationship-brokering services with other providers of resellers of cloud services.
In order to adapt to the changing role of distribution in the cloud, Ingram Mirco launched its Cloud Marketplace offering - an ecosystem of buyers, sellers and solutions which offer its partners online access to a range of cloud solutions and services.
Obang-Oyway said the offering has helped set his company apart.
"What is it we are trying to address? Partners today have a challenge of the tech deficit - how they keep up with innovation while trying to keep the lights on," he said.
"How do they remain relevant to the market generally? How do they transform their business models? There is all this complexity and they need to be able to transform without taking on the cost burden of that. So the Marketplace really addresses a lot of those issues. Partners have the ability to choose, provision, manage, bill and invoice all their cloud services from one platform. That is, of course, enhanced by our people and their expertise who can educate them through their transformation journey."
But although distributors have come some way in transforming their own business models in order to help do the same for their partners, challenges remain, Obang-Oyway said.
"The job is not done - there is certainly more work to be done in helping partners understand that we are as understanding of their challenges and markets, in some cases more than they are," he said. "We can help and enable their business strategy. We are a business strategy partner for them."
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