Advanced 365 managing director Neil Cross has singled out IBM for praise as he discussed the failings of vendors as they strived to support his firm's journey from reseller to managed service provider (MSP).
According to Cross, hardware vendors have struggled to adjust their mindset for a world where partners such as Advanced 365 are increasingly buying kit to install in their own datacentres, rather than selling it to end users.
Advanced 365 morphed from a reseller to an MSP in 2009 when parent Advanced Computer Software (ACS) opted to sell its hardware supply business to BT.
Although vendors recognised relatively early on that MSPs were becoming a significant new destination for their tin, few have created programmes that offer MSPs sufficient support when their customers encounter issues, Cross said.
"The vendors need to understand that, for an MSP, it's not just about getting the kit cheap but about the quality of ongoing support you get from them," Cross told CRN.
"If a problem is directly affecting my customers and I'm on an SLA, it's costing me money. It's nice to get a percentage point or two on hardware, but actually, if I lose a contract because I'm not getting the right level of engagement on solving a problem, that costs me far more money than I will ever make on a bit of hardware I put in my datacentre. That's what the vendors have struggled to understand."
One vendor to get the recipe right is IBM, which Advanced 365 now works with exclusively on storage, Cross said.
"IBM have done the best job to date of getting this right and that is born out in how they have re-invented themselves in past 12 months," Cross said.
"When we first told them we were building a cloud platform, they helped us design it. They understood we wanted something we could build in tranches and worked with us so we didn't have to spend a whole load of money upfront on items we didn't want to use yet. And on the back end, on the couple of occasions we had problems, the level of support we had was excellent."
Cross also argued the tendency among vendors to revolve key staff every 12-18 months has led to discontinuity in the support they offer MSP partners.
"We were one of the biggest resellers within the M25, providing hardware to the city, and the vendors loved us," Cross said. "After we became an MSP, for 12 months they didn't know what to do with us but at the same time they were beginning to recognise that here was an MSP that was actually as important as a reseller because we buy a lot of kit, it's just that it goes in our datacentres - we don't just resell it.
"So we started to see these [MSP] programmes being launched, but, as with anything new, they didn't get it right. We would make an investment with the vendor getting up to speed, only to find the programme was morphing every 12 months. The vendors' biggest problems is they have this habit of rotating key staff every 12-18 months and then someone new comes into the role with different ideas. IBM's had a good team in place and have got it right for 12-18 months but they've just changed that team and it will be interesting to see if I hold the same view in 18 months' time."
Advanced 365 parent ACS was recently acquired off the stock market by Vista and Cross said the acquisition has enabled the MSP to boost investment in its cloud platforms.
"[Last] week alone we signed off a significant hardware investment to extend our capabilities, which we are looking five years out for a full cost recovery on, which as a PLC was quite difficult to do," Cross said.
He claimed the transition under Vista, which has bullish growth plans for ACS as well as Advanced 365 itself, is going well.
"It's been a relatively straightforward transition," Cross said. "Despite the fact we told customers it was happening, most of them don't appreciate anything has changed - and that's the sign of a good transition."
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