In-depth: Customers still dominated by recessionary mindset

It has been a busy first half of the year as the industry looked for green shoots, cast its vote in the general election and hoped that the dark days of the recession were behind it.

It has been a busy first half of the year as the industry looked for green shoots, cast its vote in the general election and hoped that the dark days of the recession were behind it.

But as the months passed what has appeared is a picture of rewards for those that work hard and can show a clear and quick ROI. The pressures of 2009 are yet to lift for most in the channel as this first look back at the first six months by Amro Gebreel shows.

David Parkin, sales director EMEA, Sunbelt Software, tells MicroScope that "on the whole the UK channel has seen a pretty significant drop in vendor spend compared to 2009 with more pressure on identifiable ROI, however we have continued to invest at the same levels as 2009 as we appreciate the long term benefits of building channel relationships, to the extent that we have expanded our partner base over this period."

Clare Barclay of Microsoft UK, says that "in the past six months we have seen a number of significant developments in the channel as business conditions continue to slowly improve. The biggest change we are seeing is that partners are moving on from just thinking about adopting cloud services, to actually launching new customer offerings which create additional revenue streams for their business.

"Reflecting the recent changes we made to our Microsoft Partner Network, a number of UK partners are looking now more than ever to diversify and specialise. Partners want to promote themselves in specialists areas in order to differentiate themselves from the market and establish closer relationships with their customers."

Dan Veitkus, vice president & general manager, Channels & Alliances, Novell, enjoyed a good start to 2010.

"In particular, we have experienced a positive response to the execution of our intelligent workload management (IWM) strategy, aimed at helping customers securely manage and optimise their computing workloads.

"The IWM solutions that we have available today are clearly helping CxOs make pragmatic decisions that reduce cost, mitigate risk and increase growth potential. We are also excited about the new partnerships we have forged with several market leading partners, including Fujitsu and VMware that will help Novell reach more customers in the second half of the year."

Ross Walker, director of Distribution and Small Business, UK & Ireland at Symantec, says that the risks of not protecting data continued to be appreciated by small as well as large companies.

"A recent study by Applied Research revealed that 67 per cent of SMBs consider data loss to be an important risk to their organisation and 60 per cent said the same for cyber attacks, a significant improvement over 2009's findings, which showed that a high percentage of firms were failing to enact even basic safeguards on their information.

"This has provided a great opportunity for the channel to consult with the SMB market about how to improve their current provision for data security, management and  availability in order to mitigate the risks they are vulnerable to, and let them run their business with confidence."

Mark Weir, Recruitment & Ecosystem partner manager, SAP UK and Ireland, is looking to recruit partners to increase revenues.

"We are also in the process of identifying key areas of opportunity for our partners going forward, such as through our BusinessObjects portfolio. ROI is incredibly important at the moment; companies are less concerned about what they spend and more about what they get back. As we continue to support them, SAP's partners are working well to demonstrate the true benefits of SAP technology."

Ciaran Rafferty, vice president for UK & Ireland of Sophos, can enjoy being in one of the most stable markets: "We have therefore seen a significant strengthening in revenue and billings, driven largely by the increasing sophistication of security threats and organised cyber crime as well as more stringent regulations governing data protection.

"At the same time, we are also seeing both within government and the enterprise space a 'do more for less' mentality, which means there is always a squeeze on value, which vendors and partners can bring to the relationship.

"Sophos's UK business continued to perform strongly throughout the economic downturn, and over H2 of the last financial year we saw an average of over 30% growth in our UK business, whilst the market grew at 9%. Unlike many other companies, Sophos also benefits from having a very well balanced customer profile, with revenue pretty evenly split (25%) between public sector, enterprise, mid market and small business."

Elsewhere in the security market Anthony O'Mara, senior vice president at Trend Micro, tells MicroScope that with last year's economic challenges, many vendors probably entered 2010 with some trepidation.

"Trend's strategy was to remain focused on specific activities and markets, and it has paid dividends. We worked even closer with our channel partners to listen to their needs and the needs of our customers, against the economic backdrop. Partly due to this focus, Trend's Worry Free became Europe's best-selling security solution for SMEs, an achievement we're very proud of.

"At the other end of the scale, we have retained our focus on the enterprise market, addressing the key barrier to realising the value of moving to a cloud infrastructure, the ability to secure virtual environments. Innovation remains a core part of Trend's DNA, so we have created new products and solutions that protect companies from the ever-changing risks they need to protect their business against."

Jason Ward, head of business development at Kaspersky Lab UK, tells us that the first half of 2010 has seen six months of contrast: "Our channel has continued to grow successfully quarter on quarter, however sentiments are obviously effected by the backdrop of the local and global economic outlook".

Alan Bentley, senior vice president International at Lumension, says that mid-way through 2010, the security industry finds itself in a precarious position.

"Despite the need for businesses to address the insider threat, driven by pressures of the recession on the enterprise and the consumeration of IT, in the first half of this year the industry spotlight continued to remain focused on gateway defence and continued to neglect the growing importance of end-point vulnerability. In the second half of 2010 and beyond, this approach to security needs to change."

Steve Murphy, managing director at HDS UK and Ireland, says the year has been strong so farm, notes a healthy pipeline of business coming through and says it will be able to match last year's performance, although the mindset of recessionary behaviour still remains.

"Our customers are still spending money but are very cautious and take longer to justify technology investments. More than ever, customers are trying to avoid large scale capital investments and instead look at solutions such as virtualisation or implementing thin provisioning to support 'just-in-time' storage."

Jaspreet Singh, founder and CEO of backup specialist Druva, operates in the storage world and is keen to stress that technology carries on developing despite the economic conditions.

"Just like the demise of the floppy drive in the nineties, it looks as though tapes are going the same way; market figures show that they are no longer a preferred choice for data archiving.

"On the other hand de-duplication technologies have continued to develop and do really well, with a steep rise in demand over the first half of the year. We have also seen significant growth in the number of PC backup players this year; the release of Windows 7 has also empowered mobility, leading users to look beyond the leading backup software companies for better laptop backup solutions.

"Druva has seen a five-fold growth pattern in the last year alone. Cloud computing, has really come into its own in 2010, but enterprises have seen the pros and cons of the technology and, as a result, newer, hybrid cloud computing platforms are evolving."

In part two we will look at how networking and hardware specialists along with resellers and distributors have fared in the first half of the year.

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