The Trends that Disrupted the Channel in 2017

Mushroom cloud

2017 is almost a wrap and there’s no doubt about it — the channel is in the midst of a lot of disruption. And it’s happening on all sides — vendors, customers, distributors.

Just recently, Dell EMC appointed Joyce Mullen as channel chief, and many companies have named new top channel executives this year — Kony, Carbon Black, Pax8, SecurityFirst, Windstream, TierPoint, Infoblox, AT&T, Vonage, CloudJumper, Nitel, Avant and Veizon, to name a handful. HPE CEO Meg Whitman announced that she’ll be stepping down, and John Chambers, who gave up the reins as Cisco CEO in 2015, is now stepping down from company’s board.

Mergers and acquisitions are too numerous to mention, but on the distribution side, there was big news: Tech Data completed its acquisition of Avnet Technology Solutions and Synnex bought Westcon-Comstor.

We turned to industry watchers to get their take on significant partner-related industry news in 2017. Scroll through them in our gallery below.

Datapipe's Robb Allen

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Takes the Stage

It’s not here yet, but GDPR was more impactful in 2017 than expected on both European MSPs and U.S.-based MSPs that have clientele in Europe.

The impact: The general notion that if I’m a U.S.-based MSP, I only have to worry about regulation in the U.S., is over, despite the fact that U.S.-based MSPs never had to worry about foreign laws before. GDPR applies to any MSP – big or small – that handles data belonging to EU citizens; these MSPs will be required to be compliant when the regulation comes into force in May 2018. GDPR is aimed at improving personal data protection and increasing accountability for data breaches.

Policies and procedures must be in place; it will be in your audits. How are you preparing?

– Charles Weaver, MSPAlliance

Haves and Have-Nots

Emerging Multi-Cloud Strategy/Services

The market trend known as multi-cloud strategy/services is touching the world of the partner. As competition among the big three cloud service providers intensifies – especially between Amazon and Microsoft, but Google, which is putting a lot of effort into reestablishing itself as a player, as well – it’s become a double-edged sword. Customers, whether they be enterprises or SMBs, reap the benefits of a buyer’s market. But it also has created digital challenges and has complicated the process of selecting the right cloud service for the right use case or workload.

As a consequence, partners have the opportunity to help sort out these challenges and help customers acquire and properly utilize the right combination of cloud services from multiple sources. And, what really hit home in 2017, was helping customers move to the cloud — and that opportunity and challenge was compounded by the fact that there are multiple cloud providers who’ve emerged as viable alternatives.

– Jeff Kaplan, ThinkStrategies

Avant's Isaiah Hogberg

Security a Game-Changer for MSPs

Security continues to be the really big shake-up for MSPs. There’s a service-capability mindset shift about MSPs delivering security services to customers who desperately need them — that’s the next frontier.

For years, security has been a subspecialty for managed services with some MSPs offering some security services, or just enough of them. Now, big and small MSPs are being impacted by security issues such as ransomware, malware, data breaches and how to respond to them. Additionally, security-savvy customers are asking their MSPs about protection against regulatory pressures or threatening to hold them responsible for any fines that come their way.

There’s a lot of work that MSPs need to do to elevate their game.

— Charles Weaver, MSPAlliance

Datos IO's Rick Gouveia

Partner Convergence Is Real

The convergence of partners took shape. The silos of partners – IT partners, telecom partners, physical security partners – is disappearing. An example here is the ScanSource acquisition of Intelisys. IT and telecom, AV and IT — it’s happening.  The convergence of what was once considered "different" solutions is happening at both the customer and the partner level. And, let’s not forget IoT, a growing market where partners will play in a very broad ecosystem.

– Theresa Caragol, Theresa Caragol Consulting

Perhaps nothing magnified this convergence trend more than Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. While everyone knows Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla in cloud services (AWS), e-commerce and digital transformation, when it crossed the great divide between the virtual world that it lives in and the physical world that Whole Foods lives in, it showed how the barriers are being broken down. It shows that any combination of businesses could be pulled together. Another notable example, CVS’s bid for Aetna.

— Jeffrey Kaplan, ThinkStrategies

Champagne Toast

Service Offerings/Vendor Conflict on the Rise

Not surprising is the growth of the service offerings by channel partners. Be these managed services, offering technology as a service; professional services around consulting and advice, or implementation/support services — we saw the partners' continued efforts around defining and delivering services. And with that, we saw a new frontier of conflict with the vendors — both the vendors and the solution providers are vying for those lucrative services and bumping into each other around slightly different offerings, fighting for the same services dollars.

— Diane Krakora, PartnerPath

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