As the need for solution providers to build up a stronger services portfolio continues to rise, Ingram Micro is working to help partners make the transition in a variety of ways, regardless of how far along the path to a services-led strategy they are.
From selling and implementing services on their own to helping them team with other solution providers to fill in gaps in their offerings, solution providers can find the help they need from Ingram Micro to move toward higher-margin services, said Ingram Micro executives.
“We are talking with our partners about an overall shift to services in their business,” said John Dusett, executive director of the company’s U.S. cloud services. “And very often that’s why we’re using ‘Everything as a Service’ as we talk about this.”
It is critically important for Ingram Micro to be able to bring the right services to bear to help partners with their end-user customers, Dusett said.ADVERTISEMENT
“You’ll see that come across in partner to partner, which is connecting partners to have services capability, or bringing in third parties that we have relationships with, or even companies that over the years we’ve purchased that bring that service capability,” he said.
The move to embrace a wider range of services, and maybe Everything as a Service, is a journey in which many partners are just now taking their first steps, Dusett said. “Today we are actually bringing more partners into selling their first cloud solution than we were a year ago,” he said.
The next step is for partners to look at moving one of their core competencies to the cloud, Dusett said.
“We often find partners have a solution that they’re providing to end customers today that is their core competency, is what they’re great at, and help them realize that they can do that using a cloud platform, whether it’s a simple SaaS solution or whether it’s a backup solution,” he said.
It is easy to talk about Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service, but distribution brings it all together with all the other parts that go into a complete services offering, said Tim FitzGerald, vice president of global cloud channel technical and services at Ingram Micro.
“It is really anchored on delivering business outcomes for line-of-business decision-makers,” FitzGerald said. “You begin to incorporate many other aspects of what’s involved in delivering that complete solution.”
Ingram Micro helps solution providers leave no opportunity behind, said Greg Henson, founder and chairman of the Henson Group, a Miami-based Microsoft cloud solution provider that generates nearly all of its revenue from services.
Henson Group employs about 200 people worldwide and depends on Ingram Micro to bring its services and those of other channel partners to bear when needed, Henson said.
“We’re transparent about it,” he said. “We tell customers about Ingram Micro and tell them it’s a multibillion-dollar company backing us up. And customers love it.”
The market , meanwhile, is challenged by an unprecedented talent shortage, both on the channel and the customer side, FitzGerald said. He cited a late 2021 survey from research firm Gartner that found that 64 percent of IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant barrier to adopting emerging technologies. That, he said, leads end customers to increasingly employ outside parties to mitigate that shortage.
“But it’s not just an end-user challenge. … Partners want to have the capability and competency to span all the solution areas where their customers have need,” he said. “That means a high level of certifications in lots of different, important vendor lines, not just textbook smarts, but the practical application of that knowledge to deliver tangible business value.”
Between Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, there are maybe 600 different services available to customers, of which his team can cover 60 percent to 70 percent, Henson said.
“But in certain areas like IoT and blockchain that are not as commonly offered, it’s easier for us to bring in Ingram Micro,” he said. “They help fill those gaps for a lot of smaller to midsize partners. And if Ingram Micro’s pre- and postsales professional services teams don’t have the capabilities, Ingram Micro has a database of partners who do, all with Ingram’s stamp of approval.”
Henson said his company is planning to qualify for that database, called Ingram Micro Link, this year to provide support for other channel partners as well.
Sam Barhoumeh, founder and CEO of ReadyNetworks, a North Palm Beach, Fla.-based solution provider and tierone Gold-level Microsoft cloud solution provider, said that his company is a part of Ingram Micro Link, which enables partners to work with each other.
“I know what services Ingram has available,” Barhoumeh said. “So if there’s something I don’t have, I know where to go at Ingram Micro to get it. If there are three use cases a client needs and I can provide one, I’m not going to tell the client to look elsewhere. I know I can find the right partners with help from Ingram Micro.”
As a distributor, Ingram Micro plays a critical role in helping to raise partner competency levels with easier paths to gaining that knowledge via training and its sales and technical teams, FitzGerald said. “We’re delivering ‘Growth as a Service’ in a way,” he said.
For example, Dusett said, partners who don’t have a particular competency can lean on Ingram Micro to help build that competency or bring in third-party services to build and deploy solutions.
“How do you build a great migration practice to get to the cloud?” he said. “If [the partner has] it, we’re simply giving them advice on how to optimize it. If they don’t, we’re bringing those services to them, either Ingram ourselves or other third parties that we have behind them.”
The talent shortage is limiting partners’ ability to build many of the competencies they need in order to deliver more solutions as a service to their customers, FitzGerald said.
“We’re here to augment the partner’s capability to meet the needs of their clients,” he said. “And that means we do services delivery through partners out to their end customers.”
Dusett cited Ingram Micro’s Security Expert Program that helps partners really understand what a well-run cybersecurity practice looks like, with a focus on enabling their technical capabilities and their customer acquisition capabilities.
“We have a consultative engagement to understand how the partner does their security assessments today, ensuring that they’ve got a methodology,” he said. “And if they don’t, or if it’s not up to market requirements, we bring them our own security assessment services capability that they can bring right out to their end customers.”
Ingram Micro has a long line card of security services, including assessments in general infrastructure, application modernization, collaboration and work-anywhere, data and AI, security and business applications that often span multiple hyperscalers, FitzGerald said.
“The Security Expert Program was an investment we made because we wanted to approach the partner in a way that they got to deliver a full business outcome for the customer, not just the service,” Dusett said. “We’re not just trying to sell penetration testing. We’re trying to help them solve a business outcome for an end customer.”
There are other barriers for partners looking to stand up a security service in addition to the talent shortage, including the investment needed to set up the right sales and marketing capabilities, Dusett said.
“It’s difficult in a services business. … So we’ve been very laser-focused on where can we make investments in sales and marketing, in vendor programs, in technical certifications, etc.,” he said. “All of those things are ways that we’re trying to lower the barrier for a partner to be able to take off in their business. [And] we’ve even gotten into creative financing solutions for services partners who may not realize how much cash they need to get their services business up and going.”
Ingram Micro is also helping partners provide services to federal government customers, said Tony Celeste, executive director and general manager of public sector for the distributor.
“Cloud adoption has helped generate interest in the move and the shift—even on software—from perpetual licensing to subscription,” Celeste said. “It’s far easier in [government] budget environments when dealing with annual budgets to take advantage of this stuff.”
Public sector services, a fast-growing business for Ingram Micro, is complicated by the fact that 80 percent of typical government spending on an annual basis goes toward sustaining existing infrastructure, Celeste said. The federal government also suffers from a talent shortage caused in part by a lot of experienced personnel retiring during the pandemic, he said.
“So now you’re dealing with a very limited budget for any new initiatives,” he said. “And, as you can imagine, in the government space going through that capital acquisition process for solutions is incredibly complicated. [And so] partners are looking for those solutions from us.”
Ingram Micro is providing financial solutions that aggregate multiple technologies and services for public sector customers, from simple traditional leasing to full utility consumption models, Celeste said.
“We’re providing that aggregation and those financial solutions to the partner [and] simplifying that for them in tailored financial solutions as a service,” he said.
IT services are very different when it comes to public sector versus commercial customers, said Kush Kumar, CRO of Red River, a Claremont, N.H.-based solution provider and MSP.
Commercial customers prefer managed services so they can stay out of the business of IT, Kumar said.
“In the public sector, however, customers want to own the services,” he said. “They want things as a service where they’re paying by the drink. So we own the assets for government clients and provide them a capability in a utility model. You can’t call it managed services.”
Working with the government is more of an outcome-based business with technology provided as a service, Kumar said.
Red River works with Ingram Micro to provide those services, along with architecture support, delivery support and logistics that let the solution provider provide best-ofbreed technologies, Kumar said.
“When we offer as a service, the customer doesn’t care if, say, the networking is based on Cisco or Juniper or Aruba,” he said. “They care about the capabilities. This allows us to provide the best infrastructure with CoTS [commercial off-the-shelf] integration. I tell the OEMs it’s their job to make the best technology in the world and our job to make it work.”LEARN MORE: Distribution | SMB-Midmarket Opportunities | Professional Services
Joseph F. Kovar is a senior editor and reporter for the storage and the non-tech-focused channel beats for CRN. He keeps readers abreast of the latest issues related to such areas as data life-cycle, business continuity and disaster recovery, and data centers, along with related services and software, while highlighting some of the key trends that impact the IT channel overall. He can be reached at [email protected].
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