Jeff Byrne, Senior Analyst & Consultant
In the past 9+ years I’ve spent as an analyst covering the cloud, I’ve devoted relatively little time to the distribution channel—how cloud services are sold, delivered, deployed and supported in enterprise and midsize businesses. That changes with this post.
My eyes were opened at Ingram Micro Cloud’s recent analyst day, where I learned about Ingram’s cloud strategy and offerings. Yes, to Ingram’s credit, they have formed a separate business unit focused on cloud. Ingram may be the world’s largest tech distributor, but the energy and creativity of the Cloud leadership team go well beyond what you might expect to find in a traditional IT distribution entity.
Ingram Micro Cloud has quietly built a distribution network that brings together leading vendors, providers, hosters and traditional resellers, to enable businesses of all shapes and sizes to more readily and intelligently select, purchase and consume a wide variety of cloud services. Ingram Micro Cloud already has 1,500+ employees worldwide, servicing and supporting more than 37,000 resellers and 1 million seats through 30 cloud marketplaces based on a variety of languages and currencies. The marketplaces currently offer 250+ cloud solutions from 80 different partner vendors. Not too surprisingly, Ingram Micro Cloud is the #1 Microsoft CSP authorized partner worldwide.
With Ingram Micro Cloud at the hub of this cloud economy, the company not only has an opportunity to become a leading broker of cloud software and services, but also to influence buying and deployment decisions at every tier of the network. As a high-value intermediary, Ingram Micro Cloud has visibility into what’s selling, who’s buying and how products and services are being packaged, deployed and supported. The cloud unit is also collecting telemetry data to gain a better understanding of customer usage patterns and the like. The company is even considering buying software licenses and cloud IaaS capacity, using its purchasing power to obtain more cost-effective licenses/services, which might allow it to boost margins and/or pass along some of the savings to customers.
Ingram Micro Cloud has bought two leading cloud services orchestration and automation platforms, allowing the company and its partners to make their order management, billing and fulfillment practices more productive and efficient. The über-distributor is investing in cloud-specific training and certification programs for its customers, such as hosters and resellers. The company appears to be sitting in a pole position when it comes to enabling cloud business through the channel.
In fact, Ingram Micro Cloud is doing what it can to push and pull its more conservative partners and customers into the cloud era. In the company’s view, those customers who are complacent and resist moving to the cloud will soon fall out of step and begin to lag their competitors. Some may not survive. Eat or be eaten?
Upon hearing what the Cloud unit has to offer, most customers will recognize that the likely benefits are too great to ignore. With the help of the Odin Automation and Ensim Automation platforms, Ingram’s cloud customers will experience greater choice and transparency in buying cloud services. The company enables partners and customers, esp. small businesses, to more rapidly decide what mix of cloud software and/or services makes the most sense, by packaging up and suggesting the most cost-effective bundles that meet the customer’s needs. Once that choice is made, the Ingram Micro Cloud offering goes several steps further, simplifying for the customer the ordering, billing, delivery and support of software and services. This lifecycle approach to satisfying customer needs helps to build long-term relationships and a recurring revenue stream.
In the recent analyst meeting, I appreciated Ingram Micro Cloud’s openness with the analyst community and the aggressiveness of their future plans. As part of a newly private company (resulting from HNA Group’s recent acquisition of Ingram Micro), the Cloud business unit has the luxury of pursuing bold strategies, without having to worry about investors looking over its shoulder at the end of each fiscal quarter.
Overall, Ingram Micro Cloud’s objectives and plans feel ambitious, but I got the sense that the management team wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m looking forward to seeing how the company’s plans play out over the course of 2017.