Is Channel Distribution Merging in the Cloud?

By Khali Henderson Comments
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Indeed, both master agents and distributors are adding cloud-based providers of communications and IT hardware and software to their portfolios.

For master agencies, the combination of cloud services plus cloud-enabling connectivity seems to be a no-brainer. While it's fair to say that most master agencies now offer cloud communications, their approaches to delivering "IT-as-a-service" vary. In general they all are cautious about the potential for conflict with their IT VAR channels. For WTG CEO Vince Bradley, this is a deal killer. "We see ITaaS as directly competing with the VAR community, so we have avoided it," Bradley said.

Others like X4 Solutions' Allen tread lightly, positioning competing as-a-service offerings as "another bite at the apple" for customers that prefer an alternative delivery model to on-premises hardware/software. Telarus' Oborn said his company doesn't push the IT as a service offering with its VARs, instead packaging them for telecom agents that can "layer on the products without too much of a change from their current models."

The layered approach is not lost on distributors. Tech Data, for example, is offering software as a service (SaaS) to its VARs, a strategy that also dovetails with its TDMobility offers. "As the world moves to cloud, we aim to provide those cloud solutions in a SaaS format while also providing the required connectivity to these platforms," said Charles Kriete, executive vice president for TDMobility.

SYNNEX takes a similar view with its CLOUDSolv UC offering. "We bundle the carrier, the platform and the hardware," said Reyna Thompson, vice president of product management for SYNNEX. "We smooth everything out on the front end for the reseller so the compatibility is worked out beforehand." SYNNEX also goes one step further, adding professional services through its SERVICESolv group. "If the reseller wants to sell hosted voice and they don't want to go out and install, they can enlist SYNNEX SERVICESolv professional services group to execute this on their behalf," Thompson added.

Master agencies however, seem to avoid this part of the equation. "We have experienced that many master agencies are already providing telecom hardware as hosted/cloud-based solutions. However, they will stop short at that point as most won't want to have technicians, trucks [and] overhead to implement the hardware services," said Kyle Miley, president of Sonoran Integrations, a VAR that also sells telecom services.

SYNNEX's Thompson cites technical capabilities as a clear advantage for distributors. "As industry complexity grows, we can integrate products from our core distribution into these services while the master agent isn't capable of this," she said.

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