Marcus Adae, Vice President Core Suppliers & Technology Groups, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA, discusses the key challenges around SD-X and what partners can do to overcome them
There is one question circling the industry at the moment and causing quite a stir; “what do we mean by ‘Software-Defined Anything’?” As it stands today, not all organisations within the channel eco-system necessarily agree on a common standard for the term. To me, ‘Software-Defined Anything’ (SD-X) is an all-encompassing term covering a broad spectrum of technologies. And partners, resellers and distributors alike have slightly differing agendas in terms of where they position these technologies.
However, this means resellers are now faced with a totally new sales game. They’re tasked with finding the most appropriate solutions to take to market in order to start their transition into the brave new world of a ‘business-led consultancy approach to IT’. So, what are the key challenges and how can partners and resellers look to overcome them?
Agility is key
The needs of many businesses are changing. Line of business (LOB) owners are commanding much more of the company’s IT budget as they look to explore how IT can help them achieve their business goals – in fact, 70% of IT spend in enterprise is now moving towards LOB. This means teams are now being measured on criteria such as service agility, how they are supporting business innovation and how they are able to support LOB needs with emerging technology. The software-defined data centre offers levels of efficiency, automation and agility which help IT teams ensure they are contributing to a symbiotic relationship between the business and IT, driving innovation and continuous improvement on operational efficiencies.
Managing legacy enterprise applications
Many software-defined technologies are not suitable for existing legacy enterprise applications that still need to be supported, and organisations simply can’t afford to ‘rip and replace’ these systems. However, larger organisations are increasingly moving to a dev-ops mentality, with closer alignment between the development side and operational side of the business. In doing so, they start to need bespoke systems on their cloud-native platforms to support the pace of their LOB IT requirements. Again, this is where the software-defined data centre steps in. Partners need to make sure these technologies integrate with the IT systems that customers have today, in a more services-led approach.
Becoming a consultant
This transition brings new questions and demands from customers; “what should I do with hybrid cloud? Where do I start with introducing the software defined data centre?” This requires partners to elevate themselves above traditional product and technology conversations and step into a wider consultant role. Here, partners may need the support of distributors who can step in and help educate on how to approach the market and turn technology into business solutions, as partners are forced to take more responsibility.
Digital transformation mind-set shift
SD-X and digital transformation go hand-in-hand, but the latter requires a big cultural rethink for partners, and software-defined may be just one element of that! To make things easier on themselves resellers can look to build partnerships with other solutions specialists, who can offer broader service capabilities such as training and certifications around IT lifecycle management to support this transformation.Digital transformation for the sake of digital transformation will send a business round in circles! As a partner, if you have a strong customer base and a strong set of skills in traditional storage, look to augment those practices and transition to some of the software-defined storage technologies. Make sure you understand how to sell them, but more importantly, how to consult around the business impact they have.
Until we get complete alignment across all aspects of the software-defined data centre, storage or networking, I believe the notion of SD-X is going to take a while to mature. However, the key element of SD-X is to ensure these technologies integrate correctly with what end-user customers have today, and this may mean deploying bespoke applications to support how they want to interact with the data centre. Ultimately, SD-X creates opportunities for partners to move in a more exciting direction where they can potentially earn more money through margin-rich services.