Channel Chiefs: 2017 Will Be Merged, Converged and Software-Defined

Channel Partners asked some top channel executives: What was the most important channel or technology event in 2016? Their answers reflect one reality that no one disputes — dramatic changes are coming in business models and customer needs. 2017 is going to be interesting.

Verizon's Janet SchijnsJanet Schijns, VP of global channels at Verizon, and Tina Gravel, VP of strategic alliances for Cryptzone, say 2016 marked the year “software-defined” took hold — and not just for popular SD-WAN technology, though Verizon classifies the WAN as “low-hanging fruit” for partners. 

“2016 was the year that networks took back the cloud,” said Schijns. That’s a reference to the underlying promise of cloud that has sometimes been elusive for customers.

“For years when companies said they wanted ‘cloud technology,’ they meant they wanted the ability to support applications that were cost-effective, scalable and flexible,” Schijns told Channel Partners. “What they were really looking for was software-defined networking [SDN] and network function virtualization [NFV]. SDN/NFV provides the intelligent orchestration that enables the new, real-time customer-centric applications companies need to grow in the future. SDN/NFV is the ‘cloud’ solution companies were looking for, and it’s finally taken control of the terminology.”{ad}

We’ve discussed the benefits of NFV technology for partners. Between 2015 and 2020, IHS Markit says the service provider NFV market will grow significantly, from $2.7 billion to $15.5 billion. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) even produced a slick documentary, “The Virtualization Revolution: NFV Unleashed,” featuring commentary from Guido Appenzeller, VMware’s chief technology strategy officer, networking and security; HP’s NFV CTO Prodip Sen; Chris Wright, chief technologist at Red Hat; and others.

Cryptzone's Tina GravelGravel says the software-defined ethos will extend to security as well, referring to the software-defined perimeter research initiative launched in 2013 by the Cloud Security Alliance. 

“Analysts began talking about how the traditional corporate network had morphed into something that could not be protected in the traditional way,” said Gravel. “Cloud and software-as-a-service offerings have made this even more critical and timely. Today we must provide ways to look at individuals and how they interact with the systems they are entitled to use that goes way beyond traditional network tools like VPN and firewalls.”

With morphing ransomware, IoT insecurity and an ongoing skills shortage among the top 7 looming security risks for 2017, there’s no doubt partners needs to think differently. Avant Communications and Honeywell Technology Solutions are among those working with Cryptzone, which launched its partner program this year.

While Schijns and Gravel focused on tech, Cary Tengler, executive director, national partner programs for the Comcast Business Solutions Provider Program, insists that the channel is …


… converging, ready or not.

Comcast Business' Cary Tengler“Without question, the biggest event in 2016 was the ScanSource acquisition of Intelisys,” said Tengler. “We have been discussing the convergence of the telecommunications and IT channels for many years, but have yet to see any carrier – cableco, LEC or CLEC – successfully recruit and engage a significant number of IT solutions providers. Despite our collective best efforts, and with the notable exception of a few large players like CDW, Carousel and Presidio, the two channels have remained largely disparate.”

He says that over the last 12 to 18 months, the emergence of cloud and IoT have been the “convergence catalyst” we’ve all been waiting for.

“You can’t have cloud or IoT without connectivity,” says Tengler. “The IT channel has finally come to recognize the value of recurring revenue and the competitive advantage gained by offering a complete solution to their end-users.”

As to what makes the ScanSource buy so pivotal, he points to half-hearted efforts that IT distributors have made over the last several years to launch telco practices.{ad}

“They’ve all been unwilling – until now – to make the necessary investment to do it properly,” he said. “Recognizing that another timid effort was likewise doomed to fail, ScanSource made a very bold move in spending $83.6 million to acquire the industry’s biggest master agent in Intelisys. This $83.6 million investment is a risky bet, but one that should pay huge dividends and set ScanSource apart from their competition — and bring the long-awaited convergence of the IT and telco channels.”

Do you agree? Weigh in on your biggest channel event of 2016, and what it means for 2017, in the comments.

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