ChannelCon 2017: Vendors target cloud, SMB opportunities

CompTIA's ChannelCon event showcased Ingram Micro's cloud enablement program, new products from channel-oriented vendors and more.

The cloud and SMB market were the focuses of many of the vendor announcements made at CompTIA's ChannelCon 2017 event in Austin this week.

Here's a look of some of the highlights.

Distributor Ingram Micro released an online tool to help partners build cloud business practices. Created in collaboration with research firm 2112 Group, the 2112 Group Cloud Altimeter tool lets partners compare their cloud businesses to competitors in the marketplace. Additionally, the Cloud Altimeter provides tips on how to increase cloud services performance.

"When we looked at our partner base, we saw that they were doing a really good job ... getting started with the first [cloud] service," typically Microsoft Office 365, but partners would often stop there, said Jason Bystrak, global executive director of technology partner enablement at Ingram Micro.

The aim of the 2112 Group Cloud Altimeter, he said, is to help partners understand how to bundle together multiple cloud services and build out their cloud offerings.

CompTIA, meanwhile, revealed that channel companies are optimistic about the future of their software as a service (SaaS) business.

Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis, at CompTIA, highlighted several data points from an upcoming SaaS report at ChannelCon. According to a survey of channel companies, about three quarters of respondents said SaaS is part of their current business portfolio, she noted. The overall revenue derived from SaaS today tends to be small -- between 15% and 20%, she said -- but respondents expect SaaS to be a high growth area over the next two years.

"I think this is encouraging, because I think this is the direction that channel partners need to move," April said.

The study also found SaaS acting as an entrée into vertical industry expertise. This is one of the main reasons that channel partners decide to add SaaS to their portfolios, she noted. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that SaaS has opened doors to vertical business.

"We have seen for many years that one of the ways to differentiate yourself if you are channel firm is to go vertical, don't be just a horizontal infrastructure player," she said.

Marc Monday, the recently appointed head of channel ecosystem for SAP North America, said SAP is placing greater emphasis on the SMB market. Additionally, SAP will look to triple its channel business by 2020, according to the company. SAP currently has more than 16,000 partners worldwide.

"The thing that we want local and regional SMB-focused VARs [value-added resellers] and MSPs [managed services providers] to understand is they can partner with SAP. It's not just enterprise," Monday said.

He pointed to SAP's Cloud Choice referral program as a way for partners to get started with the vendor.

Security vendor Avast released the latest version of its AVG Managed Workplace offering, which now allows MSPs to do site assessments for their SMB customers. Sean Sykes, managing director at Avast, said the vendor is investing in security technology for the SMB market because cyberattacks are intensifying in the segment. He cited ransomware such as WannaCry as a prominent example of this trend.

SolarWinds MSP, an IT management solution provider, debuted a new cloud backup product for protecting business documents. SolarWinds Backup Documents targets SMBs specifically with an automated and affordable option -- $3 per endpoint -- for daily backups, said Nadia Karatsoreos, manager of channel development and enablement at SolarWinds MSP.

Business software vendor Agiloft said it added three Platinum-level partners to its channel: Collins Technology Consulting, Saasam and Spectrum Mobility. According to Agiloft, Platinum partners are provided with leads in their respective regions, among other benefits.

Intermedia, a cloud business applications provider, introduced two automated marketing campaigns. The company said the campaigns focus on ransomware and Microsoft Office 365.

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