Distributors are evaluating the contribution they will make to the future of hosted services, as vendors increase cloud offerings and partners introduce more managed services.
Large local players are distributing software as a service offerings and managing billing for such subscription services. However, each company stresses the need to ensure their cloud offerings support and complement the channel.
Express Data aims to bring managed offerings together so that partners and customers can access a wider range of technology, without having to establish more relationships.
“Where we believe we can add value to the market is as an aggregator of managed services, where it’s a centralised engine that brings together one product per user,” says sales and marketing manager Paul Plester.
“Otherwise, a reseller would have to deal with each different vendor and buy and pay through each vendor directly. A distributor can centralise that and provide reporting.”
Plester says managed services are typically offered to meet a particular area of need in a business, but says partners can work with distributors to seek further services if a customer is satisfied with the initial offering.
Express Data distributes Microsoft’s SPLA (service provider licence agreement) on both sides of the Tasman, along with Cisco’s Smart Care network maintenance service.
Ingram Micro general manager of business licensing, networking and security solutions, Scott Cowen, says its US business partners with a hosting provider to offer managed services to resellers and their customers.
Locally, the company is reviewing its cloud model, he says, and would like to be a Microsoft SPLA distributor in the medium term.
“We want to ensure anything we do is complementary for the channel or a requirement of the distribution arrangement with our vendors.
“Distribution can bring value to software hosted by vendors by bringing to them an existing channel, solution sales, channel marketing and finance through a scalable billing and collection model.”
Cowen says vendors, distributors and resellers can all potentially host services as the cloud model develops.
Ingram Micro can leverage billing services, he says. “Vendors only have a certain number of distributors and they don’t want to have 1000 relationships with channel partners and customers. That’s a big value add for distributors.”
Cowen says Ingram already handles software as a service products that support a range of security hardware, offered by vendors such as Juniper, Fortinet and Ironport, along with Netapp and IBM through its Value Added Distributors division.
Datastor CEO Dave Rosenberg says his company considered offering its own managed services more than two years ago, but risked competing with partners.
“Our strategy is we are supporting those of our partners who are getting into that space in a lot of different areas. We have a number of solutions we’ve provided to partners who have set up managed services.”
Datastor provides VMware’s VCloud, which amalgamates IT infrastructure into an internal or external cloud, and Asigra’s cloud-based backup, among other SaaS products.
“So many partners are getting into [managed services], but it’s not an easy thing to build,” says Rosenberg. “It’s a very planned type of move into it.” Both Express Data and Ingram Micro say they make a significant proportion of revenue from management of subscription renewals for hosted services.