There is hardly another area of IT that has transformed so quickly over the last five years than networking. From the transformation of the data centre to the ascent of cloud computing, the world of networking is changing fast. And riding into the equation comes the desire for businesses to run highperformance networks that never fail. The channel supporting all of these networking technologies is still working out how best to respond to the emerging trends. The good thing, though, is that many businesses are looking to update their legacy networks in order to become more agile. The challenge for the channel is how to capitalise on this. But there are significant opportunities to grasp. “Enterprises are continuing to review all aspects of outsourcing in order to improve their efficiency, costs and IT application performance. Enterprise cloud adoption continues to grow as they look at outsourcing compute and storage capabilities, and this in turn leads to the need for high-performance network connectivity. They are also looking at more consumption-based service models to allow controlled IT growth in line with their business growth,” says Mervyn Kelly, EMEA Marketing Director, Ciena.
The way Kelly sees things, this state of affairs creates an opportunity for partners to adopt a services-led approach to business. Instead of selling boxed products, which offer smaller and smaller margins by the year, partners can use these emerging networking trends to clinch deals surrounding the services associated with the ‘always-on’ network. “From a channel business perspective, we are seeing that, for sustained growth, more and more, the channel needs to adopt annuity-based revenues or recurring revenue models. This can help build a stable revenue stream during uncertain times,” Kelly explains. “These trends lead to possible winwin opportunities for both the channel and enterprise, from value-added services such as technical support and maintenance to full system integrator capabilities, where they can advise and implement all aspects of IT evolution for the enterprise.” At the centre of all this is the cloud. Kelly believes that, should a partner wish to really succeed in the face of the emerging networking trends, he has to skill up his team in order to accommodate cloud needs. After this, providing a consultancy service and technical support to customers should be easy. The point is echoed by Khaled Kamel, Territory Channel Manager, MENA, Brocade, who says, “With
cloud computing being one of the biggest trends in this region, the potential for uptake of cloud-optimised networking solutions is huge. Channel partners need to skill up and develop cloud expertise in order to be trusted advisors. End customers are increasingly looking to the channel for guidance and technical expertise to help them successfully navigate the journey to the cloud.” This, however, is entirely dependent on having customers who are convinced that they need to update their network infrastructures. And with IT budgets still under considerable stress, such customers may be difficult to find. Indeed, even customers with enough budget may not go for the cloud option. Handily, there are a number of other trends affecting networking that the channel can take advantage of, according to Kamel. “SDN is still a new technology and the definition and understanding of it seems to differ from organisation to organisation. Initially the role of the channel will be that of an adviser. Once the requirements have been well understood by both parties, the channel will have to step in to customise each implementation in order to best meet customer expectations,” he says. Again, this demands a serviceoriented approach to business. It also
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