Ingram Micro’s new cloud platform
Ingram Micro is a master Cloud Service Provider offering channel partners and professionals access to a global marketplace, expertise, solutions and enablement programmes that empower organisations to configure, provision and manage cloud technologies with confidence and ease.
The cloud is changing the way companies operate their infrastructure, plan their budgets and manage their employees. So, progressive solution providers and value-added resellers (VARs) are morphing into providers of cloud integration services. These savvy partners have learned that there’s a time and place to start having the conversation with customers about which appss to put in the cloud and which to keep on premises, and that this time is now.
For partners who want to thrive as successful cloud integrators, detailed conversations with customers about public, private and hybrid clouds are essential.
Rahul Bhavsar, director, Cloud Sales, Ingram Micro Middle East and Africa (MEA), said the company has over the past four years built enough capacity to drive the cloud strategy and business through the regional channel. Bhavsar said the cloud story started four years back when Ingram identified this segment as one of the few areas it wanted to grow its business in. “Initially when the cloud started in distribution, it technically didn’t fit with the traditional model of IT distribution simply because there are no boxes or physical products,” he said. “Partners were unsure how a distributor could participate in cloud.”
Bhavsar added that when cloud started, the model was direct and most cloud providers would interact directly with customers. He explained that a few years later, cloud providers started realising that to go faster, they had to take the channel route and engage partners to extend their reach and breadth. “It’s this evolution that has led to Ingram Micro to have its own cloud business,” he said.
He said with time the cloud space has progressed and evolved with most of the cloud vendors having a partner programme.
Ingram Micro took steps to improve its ability to safeguard its position in a cloud world after it acquired the Parallels Odin Service Automation platform. “Odin is a strong cloud technology platform for automation, hosting, subscription services and service provider offerings,” he said. “With this, we have taken the whole stack and built our own marketplace on top of Odin. What it gives us is flexibility and the fact that it’s not a shopping cart but channel partners have secure access and can place orders, provision services, manage services and do the billing. These are the four most important things which come with the Odin cloud platform.”
Bhavsar explained that the deal to acquire assets from Parallels Holdings included getting an additional 500 employees, many of them software engineers, plus a platform that can provide cloud management that will put Ingram Micro in the position of being a strong cloud provider not just in the region but globally. “The biggest chunk of investment is into two categories. The first is technology and Ingram Micro acquired about four companies which specialised in software development for cloud technology,” he said. “The second major investment is on people. We are investing big amounts of money to ensure that we have the skills sets and expertise that understand cloud and are helping out channel partners to build their cloud business and manage it.”
He said today, the team is about 800 people across the globe only for cloud and this comprises about 50% on the tech side and the other supporting teams are in sales, marketing, training and professional services.
Bhavsar said that timing of Ingram Micro’s entry into the cloud space is as a result of a decision it had made a few years back to develop its intellectual property to bolster its ability to shape its own cloud destiny. “Now the time has come for us to expand our capabilities by owning the intellectual property that is helping to drive this technology evolution. Odin Service Automation leads in cloud provisioning management and is an established industry standard for integrated cloud services,” he said.
“We intend to continue to enhance the capabilities of the Odin Service Automation platform, while also consistently bringing additional functionality to our combined cloud solutions. With Odin, Ingram Micro will offer the ideal combination of expertise, knowledge and commercial relationships with leading cloud OEMs, innovators and partners will be able to monitise these offerings,” he added.
Bhavsar said with this new cloud platform, partners utilising Odin Service Automation now have access to an expanded portfolio of cloud solutions and services, providing them the opportunity to easily increase their reach and build new revenue streams, while significantly accelerating time to market. “At the same time, this provides us with the opportunity to sharpen our focus as a cloud aggregator and continue to delivering market leading cloud solutions under one umbrella,” he added.
While in the past customers where concerned about security, the Middle East and Africa is slowly seeing businesses move some of the apps to the cloud. “The beauty about this platform we have is that we have brought all the vendors we represent globally. This is massive and there are no geographical limitations,” he said.
He added that adoption in US, Europe and Latin America is at the highest, while Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific is also slowly picking up. “Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services generate about 70% of their cloud revenues in the North and Latin America, and Europe,” he said.
He pointed out that the emerging technology vendors are experiencing challenges to get their cloud strategies ready and that’s one of the reason Ingram decided to be an aggregator. “Ingram has taken the lead and communicated to vendors that it is an aggregator of cloud,” he said. “And by aggregation, the pitch is the following: Ingram is a one-stop-shop for all cloud solutions for the channel and will not do business directly with end users.”
Bhavsar added that one contract with Ingram gives a partner access to all the products. “Ingram is collectively gathering vendors across the globe and bringing them under one single umbrella through our cloud platform to help partners move their businesses a notch up. “Today, our cloud platform is running in 16 countries. The platform is the cornerstone of our cloud business,” he added.
There’s a long list of considerations that partners must address when guiding their customers on the cloud journey and deciding which apps should be placed in the cloud and which are best kept on-premises.
Bhavsar said for Ingram Micro, reports that today channel partners are focusing on cloud solutions infrastructure in areas such as backup services, business continuity, hosted email, private cloud and cloud-based security solutions are encouraging and the step in the right direction for the region as a whole.
Bhavsar has a list of red flags that indicate the need for a cloud discussion. These points include: a refresh opportunity, introduction of new business apps, a move toward increased mobility and productivity, the need to lower IT management costs, new test and development, and speed to market.
“Anytime a channel partner is having a conversation with a customer about plans for IT in any of these areas is good time to evaluate cloud,” Bhavsar advised.
He said for partners in the region, a key driver of the cloud conversation with customers is to first think about the data.
Bhavsar pointed out that the conversation about data drives more awareness about the nitty-gritty of cloud contracts, such as who is responsible for data loss and what it means to ensure customers buy into a good contract.
Bhavsar said unlike in a resale model, Ingram Micro will have complete control over the pricing and margins around cloud services offered through the platform.
Looking ahead, Bhavsar said Ingram Micro also plans to streamline operations for partners looking to bundle their own managed or professional services with the distributor’s cloud offerings by enabling billing to be pushed through the platform.