Hardware margins remain under pressure, putting greater onus on software and services. Even more importantly, the trend of customers wanting to acquire "solutions", rather than products they put together themselves, is ongoing. Vendors that have traditionally supplied point products now - even more than before - have to be ready to change.
By combining insights from the many surveys we run each year it is possible to make a stab at a few areas likely to see significant client activity. One area that is almost certain to continue to prove impossible to avoid for organisations is the purchase of storage offerings, in the wake of the expanding volumes of data generated by enterprise applications and users.
Looking beyond basic storage platforms, I expect to see users buying kit with more effective storage/information management capabilities. This could well include those explicitly seeking to minimise the growth of the primary data they store - such as data deduplication. In addition, I expect a steady rise in the use of content management and archiving. This will help limit data growth on cheap-to-acquire but costly-to-operate storage arrays. Furthermore, improved classification of the data will better inform business decisions.
The second area I see is the management of mobile devices and the securing of the corporate information they hold. Many now expect to be able to use their personal devices of all kinds to access an expanding portfolio of corporate services, applications and data.
Copyright Freeform Dynamics 2013 -- All rights reserved
The challenge is that many organisations have limited experience of existing mobile device management offerings - never mind the new ones that seem constantly to emerge. They don't know what these offerings can do. So the channel is likely to have plenty of opportunities if it can identify and explain effective solutions.
Virtualisation will continue to expand in the mid-market and more slowly in smaller businesses. Years of Freeform Dynamics research highlight that, while the benefits of simple x86 Server virtualisation are well understood, few firms have managed to establish good operational processes, supported by effective management tools, that will keep virtual servers operating securely and with optimum resource use. These could be areas for partners to explore.
Desktop virtualisation is serving a wider range of use cases as well, and is another area that could well grow in the next year or two. Our research shows continuing interest in the possibilities, yet few organisations seem to understand which type of approach will suit.
Until recently, many potential use cases foundered. Costs, notably those associated with back end storage, reduced the appeal although significant benefits, notably in terms of enhancing security, support benefits, or flexibility, could justify the expenditure.
Certain costs, however, are now decreasing - so there's considerable opportunity for channel partners, especially as many of the incumbent software vendors are keen to boost adoption as well.
A final area where organisations may spend is security, particularly around information management, where external regulatory and compliance directives will continue to demand more of enterprises of all sizes. A full panoply of security solutions could come into play, from basic data protection to full scale encryption and network enhancements.
Indeed, numerous organisations are telling us they need to address many facets of security in the coming year. Once again, channel partners will have to be prepared to guide potential customers, as well as potentially taking on routine administration for customers which lack the skills or inclination to do this for themselves.
This suggests a related area for channels around offering and supplying managed services. Multiple 2013 studies of ours suggested SMBs will consider buying managed services delivered by their channel partners if it removes an operational burden.
One study - at http://bit.ly/1a6iM11 - suggested they would prefer to take cloud services from their usual channel partners rather than going directly to large or global cloud vendors.
First, find cloud suppliers with business models which suit channel resale, and then be able to support your customers' introduction to and use of such solutions.
So there are significant opportunities. The key will be providing things which deliver clear customer benefits alongside excellent support and ongoing service. In some areas, channel partners must be prepared to educate the customer base which solutions will fit. But there is scope to grow, and grow profitably.
Tony Lock is programme director at Freeform Dynamics
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