IT vendors have been “meeting in the channel” for as long as there has been a channel. Arguably, one of the primary reasons the channel exists is to provide a conduit for building solutions made up of multiple products from different vendors (multi-vendor solutions). Distributors especially have played a pivotal role in making it simpler to acquire the products that make up those solutions. Historically, any effort requiring vendors to meet in the channel has unfortunately been difficult to execute.
There are fundamental changes in terms of how organizations acquire IT products and services that require channel managers working across different IT vendors to collaborate more closely and create multi-vendor solutions. Increasingly, IT leaders are no longer content to incur the cost of stitching together multiple products themselves. They are pushing back on IT vendors and their channel partners to create a single SKU that provides them with more of a turnkey solution.
Nothing better illustrates the multi-vendor solutions trend then the rise of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platforms such as FlexPod, which combine Unified Computing System (UCS) servers from Cisco and network attached storage (NAS) systems from NetApp in a single platform.
This shift to turnkey IT experiences is hardly limited to hardware. IT organizations are increasingly requiring solution providers to provide application software bundled with hardware. Until recently, the purchasing of IT hardware and software was always separate. The adage was IT organizations may marry their software vendors, but they only dated their hardware vendors. But in the age of the cloud, the way software and hardware are purchased is starting to converge into multi-vendor solutions. Instead of relying on capital budgets to acquire hardware, many organizations now prefer to pay for the hardware they acquire to deploy on-premises much the same way they pay for IT infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Once that decision is made, it becomes simpler to pay for both software and hardware together, on a monthly basis. Before too long, savvy IT leaders will start pushing the cost of integration software and hardware back on the solution provider.
In fact, many IT organizations are shifting their IT resources away from integrating hardware in favor of allocating more of their limited resources to software. Almost every organization is under pressure these days to evolve into becoming a digital business. And yet, the overall size of the IT department is not increasing.
That means the amount of time spent manually configuring and provisioning IT infrastructure needs to be sharply reduced. In fact, organizations that have embraced advanced DevOps processes now expect that the underlying infrastructure will be as programmable as the software deployed on it, which theoretically enables fewer IT administrators to manage IT deployments at unprecedented levels of scale.
As the way IT gets acquired changes, there’s increased pressure on channel managers to create turnkey offerings that both reduce the total cost of acquisition and ownership for the end customer. Crafting those turnkey offerings typically requires a lot more engineering work on the part of the vendor. The platform needs to be infinitely extensible. Once built, however, it’s up to channel leaders to create multi-vendor solutions that ultimately enable solution providers to deliver a turnkey customer experience. That requires everything from not only certifying interoperability but also crafting reference architectures that serve as blueprints for building a turnkey platform. Just as importantly, it also means developing joint customer service and support capability through which one vendor become responsible for providing support for the combined turnkey platform.
Clearly, relationships between IT vendors are becoming more complex. Most channel managers will soon find themselves managing a web of relationships spanning multiple classes of turnkey platforms.
At Channel Mechanics, we believe that as the routes to market for IT products and services continue to evolve, the need for channel automation delivered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform has never been greater. Channel managers at different companies need to be able to share channel sales data in real time to succeed. Modern turnkey platforms require channel managers to share visibility into channel sales that go way beyond simply sharing spreadsheets. With these issues in mind, we invite you to discover just how much simpler it can be to manage multi-vendor solutions. We’re certain you will be amazed to discover how more visibility into channel sales helps guarantee success for all.