With the word ‘broadliner' increasingly stigmatised, the big four of the distribution giants - Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Avnet and Arrow - have all been trying to tout their credentials as value-based players in recent months.
Few have been as garrulous as Tech Data's UK operation, Computer 2000, which is on a quest to implement a collection-of-specialists approach. Its infrastructure and communications arm, TDAzlan, has been working to hone its unified communications (UC) skills and has added a number of vendors and high-level staff.
Almost a year to the day since industry veteran Ian French was brought in as strategic development director, CRN caught up with the TDAzlan boss to discuss the distributor's plans for 2011 and the key trends that will shape the industry this year.
CRN: Is TDAzlan looking to add vendor partners this year? What areas will you look to bolster?
We will continue to add around storage and do more in software. We will probably add some security vendors and some smaller, focused ones in UC. In data and storage, you will see some big signings and you will also see us get far more active around services.
Have distributors worked out where they fit into managed services and cloud computing?
No. And if you ask Microsoft, Cisco and HP, you will get three different stories. This is not about what the vendors want. The telcos and big MSPs also have a play in this. We could see serious action from the Googles and Amazons of this world. But everybody's proposition is still under construction. The other thing to say is it is over-hyped. We will continue to be involved, but it is a longer-term journey.
How is the partnership with Avaya shaping up? What has TDAzlan added to the distribution line-up?
I think what is coming in the future for Avaya is where it gets really exciting. It is introducing a lot of technology. It is growing and we are excited about where it is going.
We have brought a lot of partners to the table and we have brought a lot of technical skill. What we bring to the table for relatively specialist vendors is reach. We deal with over 7,000 resellers in the UK every month, with £800m of available credit. What Avaya - or Juniper, or Brocade - wants is more sales, more reach, more everything.
Have high-end technologies complicated the provision of credit to the channel?
UC, at the big end, is quite lumpy. You could have a £1m-2m-a-year reseller with a £50,000 credit line getting a £200,000 order, and that is why we are having to work really hard with much more sophisticated systems than just pure credit ratings. We invest as much in our logistics capability as we do in our technical expertise.
Is Tech Data looking to acquire in the UK? Will the big four distributors increase their dominant position?
Yes. We will see more M&A and we will continue to look at appropriate acquisitions. A high proportion of distributors are now for sale. Ingram, Tech Data, Arrow and Avnet will get bigger and that will partly be through acquisition.
How much has Tech Data invested in its ‘collection-of-specialists' approach?
Tech Data has used its size and muscle to invest. We have had a very joined-up investment plan to become a UC player. The cost of entry and the complexity of doing it properly will mean that very few people make that journey.
Very few distributors have the ability to support people throughout the technology stack. We are the only end-to-end Cisco distributor and are now the only end-to-end HP distributor. What vendors want is to get much deeper stickiness, to get really close to resellers - we can probably see 10,000 active resellers in the UK and we actively trade with by far the biggest range.
How much is the role of distribution changing now? And what will distributors need to do to be able to keep up?
The role of the reseller is changing because end users are demanding a lot more and our role is going beyond distribution. We need to go beyond big warehouses and systems and be a real partner.
Most resellers will not be skilled in every area. If you look at the big SIs or the big corporate resellers, how many of them have got the voice and video skills? Outside of the specialists, how many of the big SIs are comfortable outside of servers and storage?
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany