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Ingram Micro, Odin, Microsoft & Cloud Hosting: A Perfect Storm

Cloud computing

Francesco CetraroBy Francesco Cetraro

Ingram Micro recently announced it is acquiring the Odin Service Automation platform from Parallels. It’s a very interesting piece of news, particularly in the context of a more general trend of consolidation in the cloud hosting industry. As cloud-based services become more widely adopted and commoditized, there is a movement toward fewer, very large players fighting for domination. It’s a battle that has already seen quite illustrious casualties, including HPE, which decided to give up trying to compete with its own offering and become a premium partner of Microsoft Azure.

What’s the relationship between Odin and Ingram Micro, and how does Microsoft come into the picture?

Channel partners may know Odin as the leading provider of business-automation services for the hosting industry; its solution enables data-center hosts and telcos all over the world to offer cloud-based services to customers. From the simplest software-as-a-service products, like Web mail, CRM and file storage, to complex virtual server deployments, there is a good chance that the package you or a customer just bought is provisioned and managed using an Odin service.

Ingram Micro, a Fortune 500 company that built its fortune on the distribution of electronics, has in recent years been heavily investing in its cloud offering – becoming one of Odin’s largest customers in the process – while building a massive network of affiliates and resellers.

Beyond its software, Odin is a smart buy for Ingram in terms of experience and expertise. The company has been working hard for many years to enable cloud providers worldwide to offer services easily and grow the overall addressable market. Visible proof of this effort is the company’s emphasis on researching and analyzing trends. Odin’s SMB Cloud insights reports are widely considered one of the authoritative sources of information on how demand and adoption of cloud services have evolved around the world over time.

As is often the case with new technologies, a few killer applications can play a key role in accelerating the adoption rate of cloud-based services and push them beyond enterprises down to even very small SMBs. This is particularly true if those killer applications happen to be simple and yet absolutely critical for the life of any business, such as email and productivity software. For many SMBs, the switch from locally installed copies of Microsoft Office and Outlook to Office 365 and hosted Exchange will represent the first venture into the world of cloud-based applications. These are also the first cloud services sold by many telecom channel companies looking to expand their horizons.

In short, this deal has the potential of providing a Trojan horse that will enable upselling a wide array of additional services to SMB customers, with concurrent exponential revenue growth.

Back to Microsoft. Redmond has historically had some push and pull in terms of building a strong network of partners and resellers and leveraging its existing customer base to drive cloud adoption. Torn between the need to put its products in front of as many prospective customers as possible and its natural instinct to directly own the customer relationship, Microsoft’s channel approach has caused grievances among partners that were not too happy about getting their toes stomped upon.

In this scenario, Odin’s strong relationships with some of the largest service providers in the world and its experience in enabling partners while happily remaining hidden in the background can potentially position the company at the center of a perfect storm. Odin recently launched the Odin.cloud portal – one of the first in the world to leverage a .cloud domain – and it is heavily promoting it as the entry point for its new offering related to the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Program. It is a strong indicator of the strategic importance Odin places on enabling service providers to offer Microsoft’s cloud services to their customers, with the added unique selling point of allowing them to retain enough control to ease their fear of ending up like the Trojans did after they pulled the wooden horse inside their own city with their own hands.

By acquiring Odin and taking full ownership of the software that powers its business, Ingram Micro is sending a powerful signal about the growing strategic importance of cloud and software. While it is probably too early to say whether Ingram Micro is headed on the same path that completely transformed IBM from a hardware manufacturer into an innovative software company, this acquisition should represent yet another argument for telecom channel providers to watch Ingram Micro closely.

Born and raised in Rome, Francesco Cetraro currently lives in Malmö, Sweden, and is head of registry operations for .cloud at Aruba.it. He has held this position since April 2015; prior to that, he was the director of business development for Afilias. With over 10 years of experience in the domain and hosting industry, Cetraro is an expert on domain names and the hosting market.


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