Guest Column | July 14, 2021

X Marks The Spot For Progressive VARs

By Frank Vitagliano, Global Technology Distribution Council

X Marks The Spot

Tech Distributors Map Channel Strategy for ‘Everything-as-a-Service’ Opportunities

If you do business with IT distributors, it may come as no surprise that they are holding their own on the cloud front. In North America, for example, distributor cloud business grew 27% in 2020 over the previous year.

For those less familiar with how distributors have evolved from pick/pack/ship business models, it’s worth a quick jaunt down memory lane to what took the IT market by storm in the 1980s – when distributors fueled a massive movement to pervasive Ethernet-connected LAN and client/server computing solutions.

It was a different time, of course, when in 1983 a company headquartered in the mountainous scenery of Provo, Utah, unleashed its flagship NetWare product on a rapid and historic journey to top the world of network operating systems. By the early 1990s, Novell commanded a 70%+ share of the corporate networking software market. Distributors indeed got those boxes in all the right places at the right times across the country and world.

The Paradox Of Perception And Reality

Distributors did much more than ship boxes then, and that reality is far more pronounced today. Pre- and post-sale support were instrumental distributor services VARs depended on every day in those formative years of the PC industry. That foundation has transformed well beyond what anyone probably ever envisioned, although Novell founder Ray Noorda’s words lasted much longer than his company’s seat atop the summit. An avalanche started heading their way from Redmond, WA, about a decade after NetWare launched.

It’s a small yet telling story about the IT industry – and prophetically put by Noorda himself: “Cause change and lead; accept change and survive; resist change and die.”

What those outside distribution and channel circles seldom recognize is how distributors continuously meet this threshold. A look at the GTDC roster of IT distribution leaders reflects both change and staying power irrespective of the innovations at stake. Once thought to be on their way to the proverbial sidelines when the industry switched from packaged software to licensing, for example, distributors led the charge – a remarkable transformation that truly tested the notion that disties merely move the goods; they bring them to life along with vendor partners and channel companies in extraordinary ways. This is especially exciting today as another “sea change in the making” is upon us.

Forming A New Foundation

Cloud platforms and solutions serve as a new foundation. The names may be changing from the vendor standpoint, and different types of distribution models are already taking root with unprecedented potential. Some of the VARs that drove the PC revolution are still around today, yet not always by the same name or reputation of bygone eras.

It’s a fact we all know today: Change is more constant and inevitable than what we’ve seen in past eras. Embracing it cannot wait. The channel is in a position to bring the XaaS revolution into SMB as well as larger enterprises on a global scale. Despite the progress, the complication isn’t exactly subsiding. Just as innovation makes mind-boggling strides possible, channel ingenuity will be putting it – and holding it – together on a scale of immense proportions.

Erasing Doubts And Building Confidence

Doubts may surface about who you choose as a partner, if they have your back, or may turn it on you. If you glance over the industry shoulder and realize how distributors built, and continue to build, their businesses, you’ll know what to expect from them. Supporting VARs time and again no matter where innovation heads.

Direct business was once viewed as a foregone conclusion by some pundits, as certain manufacturers relentlessly touted the advantages – until realizing the undeniable power of channel expertise in vertical and horizontal markets in every avenue and street corner as well as vast farmlands and, well, the outer reaches of space. Technology is advancing where it’s truly never gone before, and the channel’s going to get it there with distributors and vendors who “get” the equation.

Multivendor Acumen The Value On Demand

There’s simply no better way of addressing today’s business challenges and opportunities. Distributors have mastered the art of multivendor solutions, and that hallmark is tantamount to the values end customers and their trusted advisors expect and must deliver.

Now that this new revolution is here, our organization, the Global Technology Distribution Council, embarked on a deep dive with an independent researcher into how distributors, vendors, and solutions providers will together pioneer their XaaS futures. In this new report – The XaaS Revolution: Distribution’s Pivot to the Future – on the GTDC Knowledge Center, you will:

  • Learn how distributors are expanding XaaS offerings to support solutions provider success in emerging as well as traditional markets
  • Hear from both distribution leaders and vendor partners on ways they are working together to educate channel companies looking to capitalize on both niche and broad-based XaaS demand
  • Gain insights into upstarts and incumbents in the XaaS mix and the overall evolution underway, including how it follows – and diverges – from some familiar paths of innovation
  • Understand distribution’s “big pivot” in value delivery models, what’s happening now, and what to expect ahead

No matter how you look at XaaS today, it would be a mistake to simply wait and see what happens. Some words from the past still echo today: Cause change and lead.

Distributors have been there for VARs regardless of what technological innovations materialized around the next industry corner. You can count on that support wherever X marks the spot for your next strategic move. ROI for VARs is an inherent – and historically central – aspect of distributors’ own success stories. How they sell and deliver is evolving in a manner, not unlike their portfolios and breadth of services, but strong channel partnerships will always set the standard. Explore how distributors can help you grow where everything is a service (or has that potential)!

About The Author

Frank was named the chief executive officer of the Global Technology Distribution Council in April 2019. He focuses on strengthening partnerships between members and vendors by addressing industrywide issues and opportunities related to the essential role of distribution in the IT channel. GTDC members drive more than $150 billion in annual worldwide sales of products, services, and solutions through diverse business channels.

About The GTDC

The Global Technology Distribution Council is the industry consortium representing the world’s leading tech distributors. GTDC members drive an estimated $150 billion in annual worldwide sales of products, services, and solutions through diverse business channels. GTDC conferences support the development and expansion of strategic supply chain partnerships that continually address the fast-changing marketplace needs of vendors, end customers, and distributors. GTDC members include AB S.A (WSE: ABPL), Almo Corporation, Arrow Electronics (NYSE: ARW), CMS Distribution, Computer Gross Italia (MI: SES), D&H Distributing, ELKO, Exertis, Esprinet (PRT.MI), Exclusive Networks, Infinigate, Ingram Micro, Intcomex, Logicom (CSE:LOG), Siewert & Kau, SiS Technologies (HKSE: 0529), SYNNEX (NYSE: SNX), Tarsus, Tech Data, TESSCO Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: TESS), TIM AG and Westcon-Comstor.