SAN DIEGO — Good news, Ingram Micro Cloud partners. You are, on average, more awesome than ever.
A year after the distributor debuted what it calls the Cloud Awesomeness Roadmap at Cloud Summit 2018, Renée Bergeron, senior vice president of global cloud at Ingram, said that more partners are starting to move up its hierarchy of cloud providers.
To recap, Ingram’s four levels of “Cloud Awesomeness” are:
- “Build partners” – who offer a few cloud solutions and generally are still learning the cloud game. They tend to be reactive and opportunistic, and most processes are manual.
- “Breadth partners” – add more solutions, and focus on cross-selling and upselling, and add automation around ordering, provisioning and invoicing
- “Depth partners” – serve up a much broader array of cloud solutions, add infrastructure-as-a-service to the mix, and seek to become “an end to end provider” for their customers.
- Finally, there are but a few “Scale partners,” differentiated by offering a large number of solutions to their customers. Partners at this level tend to outsource as much as they can of the backend of the catalogue and administration and focus on delivering real digital experiences to customers and going deep with digital marketing to acquire and upsell customers.
So how do partners stack up?
The majority of partners are still in the first “build” category, although the number of partners in that first tier is in decline, having shrunk from 60 percent of the distributor’s partners last year to 50 percent this year.
The second and third tiers have picked up the majority of those who’ve moved up, with the percentage of “Breadth” partners moving from 30 to 34 percent, and “Depth” going from 9 percent to 14 percent.
The rarified air of “Scale” partners, meanwhile, remains a tiny portion of the distributor’s partner base, as one would expect, but did manage to double from one to two percent.
Bergeron said it’s not a pejorative for a partner to be in the “build” category — but if partners don’t have a plan to expand beyond that, it’s not a good sign for their evolution in the market, particularly as more traditional parts of the business, and even the low hanging fruit of cloud face margin pressure.
“Being a chronic build partner is not a strategy. You need to set your sights on becoming a breadth partner,” she advised.
Along with sharing the happy news of its partners’ progressions, Bergeron presented a few key new developments in Ingram’s cloud program.
Perhaps the most foundational was the long-awaited debut of Connect, the distributor’s integration that allows smaller partners to essentially onboard themselves rather than waiting for the distributor to handle the on-boarding process.
Connect will support all kinds of smaller ISVs, but is particularly exciting news for solution providers that themselves have developed a repeatable cloud solution that they’d like to investigate taking to market beyond their own sales field. The new module should make for a much clearer path for such solution providers to bring their offerings to Ingram’s Cloud Marketplace, further evidence of a shift and convergence Bergeron reports in the channel, where ISVs are playing a more prominent role, in part because far more organizations are identifying, at least in part, as an ISV.
“In the past, it was big vendors and big solutions. Now, it’s a proliferation of ISVS that are accessible and part of the solutions our customers are building, and our partners are emerging as ISVs themselves,” she said.
“The lines are blurring not just for distributors, but for partners themselves, she added, noting that just as Ingram is itself both a distributor and an ISV, so to can partners be both buyers from, and suppliers to, the Cloud Marketplace.
Ingram executives stressed that while the process will be more comfortable and quicker for smaller ISVs, the distributor will still be vetting new vendors brought in through Connect to ensure quality, and particularly compliance and security. David Wippich, chief technology from Ingram Micro Cloud, said the compliance vetting is “mostly automated,” and that would-be suppliers will have to be running their offerings on public cloud infrastructure to ensure scalability and security. Microsoft’s Azure platform, the underpinnings of Ingram’s own Cloud Blue platform, will be preferred, but other cloud platforms will also be accepted.
“We want to make it a closed-loop ecosystem, with customers buying and selling from each other,” Wippich said.
As Ingram on-board vendors faster, Bergeron acknowledged that it could be “challenging for partners to keep up” with new solutions that might be a good fit. In part to combat that issue, and also to help partners raise their marketing game — the pack of digital marketing acumen among partners was a frequently-addressed topic in Bergeron’s keynote — the company announced a new cloud-specific sales and marketing hub. Launching today in the U.S. and coming to Canada in July, the hub offers product discovery and training, as well as campaign templates for producing customized marketing campaigns around Cloud Marketplace.
Also on the back-end, Ingram announced a new API to connect Cloud Marketplace with online storefront, CRM, billing systems, and other back-end systems. The first announced integration is with ConnectWise, and Bergeron was joined on-stage by new ConnectWise CEO Jason Magee to discuss the new partnership, which will see Cloud Marketplace tied into Connectwise Automate.
Rounding out the Cloud Marketplace announcements, the distributor debuted a new UI for the site which it says will make it easier for partners to find, purchase, and manage cloud offerings for their customers.