The rapid rise of mobility, and the user expectations it has created, plus the very real promise of integrated analytics, have changed the universe where solution providers operate, and they need to adjust or lose major opportunities.
After a slow start, the hybrid cloud has kicked into gear in Canada, and solution providers need to adjust to that, and ignore it at their peril. That’s the view of Michael Kerr, EMC Canada’s director of channels.
“There has been a definite change from three years ago, when everybody was tired of hearing what the cloud was, and nobody really believed it would be as prevalent as it has become,” Kerr said. “While Canada was late to embrace the hybrid cloud, there is a growing recognition that people can’t build and maintain disaggregrated pieces of technology any more. As a result, we are seeing that maturity around cloud accelerate in Canada for sure.”
Kerr sees the explosion of mobile as a key factor in bringing this change about.
“The advent of mobile has made that acceleration come far faster than anyone could have imagined,” he said. “The way business units now think, if you can’t deliver an application on an iPhone, it’s of little value. Younger people in particular now expect it – always on, always there. IT departments have to adjust, and be able to deliver a GUI cloud interface. They need to take pieces of the public cloud and merge it with what’s behind the walls in a nice GUI offering.”
The bottom line for IT, Kerr said, is that it needs to be more consultative, be aware of these trends, change their approach, and at least be responsive to what end users want. VARs who advise IT departments on what could best be in the cloud thus need to be well aware of these trends as well.
“VARs are evolving their integration skills on the concept of cloud, not just on technology, but on these more business-oriented as well,” Kerr said. “Cloud business in Canada is becoming a very large revenue piece of business. As a vendor, if we don’t participate, we don’t earn revenues. That’s why EMC is transforming from a storage company to a cloud infrastructure company. We are becoming a cloud converged company, and a data analytics company as well.”
Analytics is the other major factor here, as Kerr said this transformation reflects the fact that the new holy grail of almost every company is to get business advantage out of the data they have.
“If that data is all in islands and pockets, they can’t truly leverage it,” he said. EMC’s response, announced last month, was data lakes, which contain both structured and unstructured data from a wide variety of sources, along with predictive analytics that leverage the data.
“If you start developing now and put in place cornerstones of development that allow all data to be used in lake form, you can look throughout the entire lake rather than hundreds of separate ponds, as before.” Kerr said. “That’s the other go-to-market strategy that we are working on, and trying to find the proper partners to represent that. Today, I have six partners in Canada who can sell the Data Lake, but I have three times that number who can sell converged and hybrid cloud.”
Kerr did stress that he’s not saying that partners who don’t quickly move to the cloud will soon be out of business.
“The old technologies aren’t going away completely,” he said. “Look at mainframes and COBOL – they are still there. Partners can survive for a while just selling things as separated technologies. But more and more we need them to sell integrated technologies through the cloud. There’s lots of good money to be made there for the next 5-7 years.” Beyond that, Kerr said it’s impossible to predict, because we simply don’t know how technology will have evolved by then.
“For me, the key, since I have responsibility for the channel, is to help them adapt to these changes, in order for them to remain relevant,” Kerr stressed. “Instead of getting customers to buy any component, they need to get them to buy ones that will fit into an integrated architecture. They must be more service oriented, as opposed to production oriented, and they need to make sure their customers get this as well. They need to tell them that if they don’t, shadow IT will overtake the budgets they have and their ability to accomplish things they want to. They need to emphasize that departmental budgets that don’t contribute don’t get repatriated.”