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IT channel partners: A look ahead at 2018

Taking a step back may shed some light on what’s ahead next year for IT channel partners.

A look at the top Channel Marker blog posts of 2017 — as measured by page views — reveals reader interest in next-generation networking, IT security, the internet of things (IoT), data management, marketing techniques and vendor programs for IT channel partners.

Here’s a rundown of the top blogs and what they might hint about the future:

Cisco DNA: How should partners deploy it?

This blog post examines Cisco’s software-based digital network architecture, which the vendor positions as a platform for digital business and a tool for digital transformation projects. Cisco advised partners to take an incremental approach with the technology, which debuted in 2016. The idea is to start with a basic use case and move on from there, rather than attempt to digest the entire architecture at one sitting.

Outlook: Cisco’s phased-deployment recommendation appears to be on track with how customers are actually implementing elements of Cisco DNA. Organizations such as Scentsy and Jade University of Applied Sciences are planning pilots of Cisco’s intent-based networking technology, which builds upon Cisco DNA. Look for the testing of newer networking approaches to continue in 2018, with an emphasis on finding ways to simplify network administration and boost security.

More cybersecurity trends to watch for in 2017  

This security outlook post highlighted cloud access security brokers (CASB) as among the trends to watch. CASB products, which serve as gatekeepers between the cloud and a customer’s in-house infrastructure, have been available for a few years but have lacked a huge following in the market.

Outlook: Gartner recently forecasted that 60% of large enterprises will adopt CASB products by 2020, compared with only 10% in 2017. That should spell opportunity for IT channel partners. But amid a wave of acquisitions, CASB may become a piece of functionality within a broader portfolio of security offerings, rather than remain a discrete product category. Cisco, McAfee, Microsoft and Symantec have all snapped up CASB startups.

Aruba Networks IoT adoption trends point to channel prospects  

IoT has exceeded customers’ return-on-investment expectations, according to this blog post, which summarizes the findings of an Aruba Networks report. Fifty-six percent of the business leaders polled in the Aruba-commissioned surveyed have deployed IoT in their business, citing a 34% average ROI. The top adopters, according to the Aruba report, are enterprise customers, industrial firms and healthcare organizations.

Outlook: IT channel partners can expect customers to continue their IoT investments into 2018 and beyond. Worldwide IoT spending will reach $772.5 billion in 2018, a 14.6% increase over 2017, according to IDC. The market researcher expects the IoT market to maintain a 14% compound annual growth rate through 2021, when IDC anticipates the market will surpass the $1 trillion threshold. Software and services, both important sectors for channel companies, will enjoy the highest growth rates within the IoT technology category, IDC forecasted.

Informatica partner strategy on track for expansion

A distribution agreement is the subject of this blog post on Informatica, a data management vendor. Informatica inked a North American distribution pact with Avnet Technology Solutions, now part of Tech Data. The agreement provides North American IT channel partners with access to Informatica’s data integration, cloud, security, master data management and big data offerings.

Outlook: Channel companies partnering with Informatica should find solid growth in the master data management market, where the vendor is considered among the top players. Zion Market Research projects the global master data management market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22% through 2022.

Channel partners help SaaS provider enter overseas markets 

Startups increasingly work with channel partners to reach customers, and this blog post discusses how single sign-on vendor OneLogin Inc. used that approach in its international expansion. The company created a partnering stack in each geographic region consisting of national or international partners, mid-sized regional partners, and smaller boutique consultancies with local influence.

Outlook: The pattern of early-stage companies turning to IT channel partners for sales help appears set to continue, particularly in markets such as security in which customers may need a vote of confidence from a trusted partner to take a chance on a new vendor.

Microsoft Inspire: Four takeaways from the company’s partner meetup 

Key trends at Microsoft’s annual partner meeting, according to this blog post, included the company’s focus on digital transformation and its suggestion that partners pay attention to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Microsoft will rely on IT channel partners to contribute the industry-specific knowledge needed to transform businesses. On GDPR, Microsoft believes the directive will have a wide-ranging channel reach.

Outlook: Channel companies equipped with digital transformation practices should have plenty of work ahead. Only 8% of IT executives believe they have achieved transformation, according to a recent report from Ovum, a market research firm in London that polled more than 6,300 respondents worldwide. As for GDPR, the compliance deadline is around the corner in 2018. Channel partners will have to act quickly to determine what steps they — or their customers — need to take. 

HPE partner program takes on digital marketing 

HPE launched a Digital Marketing Program to help partners adjust to changes in the buyer’s journey. The program, outlined in this blog, provides support for creating digital marketing plans and offers access to marketing development funds. Educational content and workshops are also part of the lineup.

Outlook: Traditional marketing has often proved a struggle for partners, much less digital marketing. The next evolution of the latter may involve greater use of AI. According to Salesforce research, the use of AI in marketing will expand more than 50% over the next two years, as marketers seek to execute “more targeted campaigns, smarter personalization and higher ROI.”

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