Tech distribution is undergoing one of the most turbulent - and yet also most successful periods - in its history.
The triple whammy of Brexit, Covid and component shortages has put the channel's middle tier firmly in the spotlight, with distributor sales and share prices both spiking sharply through lockdown.
Distributors may be facing renewed questions about their role in the channel ecosystem, but research by CRN confirms the enduring buoyancy of the sector.
Tellingly, the share prices of publicly listed distributors the world over have shot through the roof in recent months - even outperforming the likes of Amazon and Google - as investors vote with their feet.
The CRN Top Distributors Report is CRN's most comprehensive attempt yet to map the UK distribution skyline, and shine a light on the trends impacting the channel's middle tier.
An abbreviated version of the report can be viewed by all here.
Outmoded, or more relvant than ever?
In February, Forrester analyst Jay McBain caused a stir among the 40 firms in this report when he highlighted 10 "significant" headwinds facing the distribution industry over the next decade.
This included the rise of ecosystems, the proliferation of subscription and consumption models, the explosion in ISVs and accompanying rise in marketplaces that aggregate their solutions, and the decline of precious-metal vendor programmes in favour of new ‘ecosystem'-based schemes.
Each of these threatens to disaggregate distribution, argued McBain, who fingered marketplaces as possibly "the strongest headwind distribution is facing".
Distributors may be facing a threat from new market entrants such as Pax8, but many of the MDs we spoke to instead that distribution is carving out a space for itself at the very centre of the very emerging market forces McBain outlined.
Tech Data UK managing director Dave Watts (pictured above) felt that McBain's conclusions were only half right.
"Distribution shares are increasing faster than those of the biggest IT companies in the world. And I think the reason for that is because [investors] see the coming together that Jay describes, but they also view distributors as the companies best placed to sit in the centre of that new model," he told CRN.
"If you listen to what IDC or Accenture say, once platforms start to exist in a market they generally win. We've seen that with Airbnb and with Uber.
"And [the distributors] already have platforms. The difference between us and those [other] platform developers is that we already have a load of IP and services, the pre-existing vendor offerings and 45 years' of experience of putting solutions together for customers."