For the last few years, distribution in Canada in general, and D&H Canada in particular, has enjoyed robust growth in computer systems and other endpoint technologies. But for 2018, D&H Canada boss Greg Tobin is looking to a different field for the biggest growth opportunities. Tobin believes it’s infrastructure’s time to shine.
“The next area to really grow is server, storage and security,” Tobin posited for 2018, noting that while PC systems were “the best value for IT spend and budget” that growth “is slowing down a little, although we’re still growing nicely.”
That would seem to buck a trend of infrastructure sales being weakened by the move to cloud and subscription-based apps and services, but there are three things probably working in D&H’s favour for infrastructure business growth. The first is the general pent-up demand for servers and storage, given deferred purchases over the last few years. The second is that many small businesses at this point may have moved all the apps and workloads they’re comfortable moving to public cloud, leading to that pent-up demand expressing itself in on-prem servers and storage. And the third is D&H’s own nature. Always an SMB-focused distributor, D&H has traditionally been associated with endpoint and related technologies much more than data centre and infrastructure, particularly in Canada. But the distributor took steps to change that perception last year, launching its advanced technologies business unit. The proof? In a server market in Canada last year that was hardly growing at lusty rates, D&H reported its sales up 89 per cent over 2016 numbers — a reflection of its growing focus on that sector, and the traction that’s getting. That number, Tobin added, is largely in Lenovo servers, since it just brought on HPE servers part-way through the year.
Tobin said a big part of that growth — and the growth he hopes will continue — is doo to the development of the advanced solutions team as a line of business, but also credited to “blocking and tackling” basics across the distributor’s business, most notably its attempts to make credit easier to get for many smaller solution providers.
“If you give credit to people who can’t get it elsewhere, they tend to be very appreciative,” Tobin said.
The opening of the west coast distribution centre part-way through last year also plays a roll, he noted, allowing it to be much more responsive to customers in the west, and get “last-minute” orders it would not have been in the running for in the past.
He said he expects to see the infrastructure side growing throughout 2018, although he noted they may see some decline in the consumer-related areas it sells — usually not a big concern for business-focused VARs and MSPs.
One area distributors are increasingly looking to boost both relevance and profitability of device-centric offerings are “device-as-a-service” and similar full solution financing via subscription. The idea of such subscriptions is not entirely foreign to D&H, which represents Cisco’s Meraki WiFi line that is sold in that kind of model, but Tobin said D&H is still “looking into what we need to be able to do” and “assessing the market’s readiness and willingness to get into that monthly billing type of model.”
“It’s not going to make or break our year, but we need to spend more time on where the market is likely to go. We’re not trying to be the first into the area, but we want to make sure our customers are services and have a roadmap,” Tobin said.