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What to expect in Q4

AI, contact centres and security are among the areas where the channel might gain in this quarter, according to industry figures

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: What’s next for the channel?

The fourth quarter is almost here and those in the channel wondering where there might be additional sales opportunities can read advice here from numerous industry figures contacted by MicroScope. From contact centres, security, printers and artificial intelligence (AI), there are plenty of areas where resellers should be able to reap rewards.

Myles Leach, managing director, NFON UK

The contact centre market has evolved greatly over the last year and due to this changing landscape, we believe there are huge revenue opportunities to be had in the fourth quarter. Many organisations’ technology and staffing plans have not kept pace with consumer demand for digital customer service. To satisfy the rising demand, contact centres and call centres must be able to scale rapidly, even as they develop new competencies.

New digital channels and touchpoints are emerging, changing the way consumers interact with brands. Multichannel, big data and the integration of the internet of things pose new requirements for the visibility of customer-related data. Digitisation has become vital in a competitive market, and the most straightforward way to digital excellence is cloud technology. Modern customer communication services require solutions that can integrate all communications processes into a single platform.


Jon-Marc Wilkinson, regional sales director – UK & Ireland, WatchGuard

When it comes to opportunities, the channel should focus on enabling their mid-market customers to extend security beyond the traditional network perimeter and cover their multiple off-premise endpoints. With employees becoming increasingly detached from the corporate network, they are vulnerable to targeted attacks, such as spear phishing and clickbait.

Analysts like Gartner support these concerns, stating that “by 2021, 27% of network traffic will bypass the network perimeter”, requiring customers to adopt a layered approach to secure their endpoints. However, it’s important, especially in the small to mid-market, that solutions deliver maximum protection, without impacting performance.

Also, implementing and managing security services can be highly lucrative for partners, but technology complexity and the infosec skills shortage are frequent barriers to entry and success. In the fourth quarter and beyond, partners should see more automation capabilities built into solutions offered by vendors.


Ian Millward, general manager, channel, Zen Internet

The last quarter of the year is always a good time to understand what is likely to be coming from vendors in the first quarter of next year. For instance, we at Zen Internet will be launching a new proposition, as well as lining up our Single Order Generic Ethernet Access (SOGEA) offering, which is a really exciting development.

In general, across the connectivity market, there will be plenty of opportunity for the channel to get excited about, including further roll-out of FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) across new regions of the UK. The demand for services and reliability is still there, but the channel needs to look at how they can add value, with support from vendors like us, to remain relevant to customers and continue to drive opportunity for their business.


Steve Franklin, technical director, Cinos

We are seeing a rapid increase in automation, especially in the contact centre market. Businesses are looking to differentiate themselves based on the excellent service they offer to their customers, and the contact centre is their vehicle to deliver that. Automation through AI and chatbot integration, as well as predictive analytics, is creating a more proactive environment rather than one that simply reacts to customer demand. Integration with premise-based AV and digital signage is enabling a more connected and interactive customer experience, whether they are in a store, a doctor’s waiting room or at home online.

Video is evolving, too. From the traditional meeting rooms, video continues to spill over into huddle spaces and breakout areas. The usage of video is changing too, from real-time meetings to recording, editing and sharing video content on an on-demand basis. Together with the growth in digital signage, this creates a powerful combination that enables users to develop their own content, schedule and then manage how and where it is displayed.


Martyn Brownlie, channel director, Northern Europe, Sophos

Partners should be getting really excited by the increasing opportunities around public cloud security. New tools such as Cloud Optix from Sophos are providing more intelligent cloud visibility, compliance and threat response data. This allows partners to not only see where the gaps are and provide better security, but to create and offer customers an array of services around monitoring, management and reporting. The safer customers feel in moving to the public cloud, the more workloads and data they will move, creating even more partner opportunities.


Sam Walker, vice-president of channel sales EMEA, AddOn Networks

Digital traffic through social media, video streaming and gaming, as well as the digital transformation of business, is driving an ever-increasing demand for bandwidth. The CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of optical networking is accelerating, which represents a huge opportunity for the channel as enterprises, service providers and datacentre operators struggle to meet the demand and manage their budgets. Optical transceiver connectivity is a growing proportion of the spend and there is increased profitability for distributors and resellers in providing a significantly lower cost and higher-quality solution that is fully compatible to the pure OEM play.


Ian Ashworth, EMEA & APAC channels director, Netwrix

In the midst of the “data era”, with the combined challenges around data management and security, and customers accelerating their journey to the cloud, the channel has a lot of reasons to be excited in this quarter.

For a long time now, we have been hearing in the media about organisations, both SMEs and enterprises, being breached and losing customer data. However, with the recent vast General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fines being levelled at companies including BA (£183.9m) and the Marriott Group (£99.2m), the reality of needing technologies that will not only ensure compliance, but also that the right security controls are in place to protect the business from a financial and reputational standpoint is absolutely what the channel must be focusing on going into the next quarter.

As more companies migrate to the cloud and face challenges around data migration, ensuring security and being able to track where all sensitive data is, whether on-premise or in hybrid and cloud environments, is also something to look out for in the fourth quarter. We will see great opportunities for the partner communities to help take their customers through this journey and generate new incremental business through new technology platforms.

Betsy Doughty, vice-president of corporate marketing, Spectra Logic

The channel should be excited to educate data-driven users about new storage strategies. Increasing scale, levels of collaboration and diversity of workflows are driving users toward a new model for data storage that embraces a revolutionary two-tier storage architecture. This new architecture balances a file-based project or primary tier with an object-based perpetual tier. As part of this two-tier architecture, data management software is used to activate optimal storage lifecycle management, saving customers time and money while fully protecting their data on the proper storage platforms, whether tape, disk or cloud.


Jackie Groves, regional vice-president UK, Fuze

In the fourth quarter, we expect to see an acceleration of UCaaS (unified communications as a service) projects. For example, as legacy telephony solutions become increasingly difficult to maintain or expand – and companies need agility and flexibility to grow – there is a rapid shift to cloud platforms, giving the channel the opportunity to address these projects. And with an increasing need to give workers greater flexibility in how and where they work, the channel is perfectly positioned to deliver the right collaboration solutions to meet customers’ needs. The winners in the channel will be businesses that enable themselves to offer deployment and adoption services, as well as simply being the SaaS (software as a service) provider. In particular, the channel can provide value by helping companies to understand their data and how to leverage that insight to improve their business.


Mark Armstrong, UK & Ireland vice-president channels and alliances, HPE

HPE is publicly committed to double down in the SME segment, so in the fourth quarter, partners will see our added focus on driving more demand, so they can put their focus on adding value for their customers. Globally, we have signed up 50 new channel partners to sell HPE GreenLake service every month for the past year, so the fourth quarter will be an exciting time as our specially designed offerings for the mid-market allow more partners than ever to deliver new preconfigured as-a-service workloads for compute, database, private cloud, storage and virtualisation.


Matthieu Brignone, area vice-president EMEA partners, Pure Storage

The most evolved enterprises know the potential of their data as a competitive lever and for insights into their customers, but they also know that data types have different needs for access, storage, management and consumption. This has prompted a period of revolution in 2019, with businesses increasingly seeking to reap the benefits of a hybrid environment in terms of data mobility, performance and security.

Customers are also demanding solutions that require minimal rearchitecture while leveraging the capabilities of public and private cloud environments to suit the needs of their business. In response, some truly exciting innovations are emerging towards the end of this year which allow for unprecedented levels of agility, and which close the long-established public and private cloud divide. Resellers can look forward to playing a critical role in enabling digital transformation thanks to this innovation, and helping organisations realise the value of their data as a strategic asset.

Moving forward, we will also see more companies putting data at the heart of their business, and getting creative about how data is leveraged. Data-focused technologies such as AI are already having a positive impact in industries such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing, and appetite will continue to grow as more companies take a data-first approach to business. However, getting started with AI is often cited as a key barrier to adoption by organisations. That is set to change. Going forward, we will see businesses becoming “AI first”, supported by solutions that allow for end-to-end rapid AI deployment. By working together, vendors and resellers can break down the barriers and help free organisations from siloed data environments, leveraging the power of AI to drive productivity and performance.


Mick Bradley, vice-president EMEA, Arcserve

We’re seeing more partnerships, market consolidation, and a convergence between security and data protection. Organisations want to solve more problems with fewer products, and as a result we’re seeing an increased interest in end-to-end solutions and managed services – which also leads to bigger and more profitable transactions for the channel.

In terms of specific technical industry trends, many organisations are seeking partners that provide solutions that can ensure continuous data availability to avoid even the slightest disruption to business continuity – especially as ransomware continues to be an ever-increasing threat.


Kristian Kerr, vice-president EMEA partner organisation, NetApp

With customer cloud adoption continuing to build momentum, partners can take a leadership position and build new revenue streams by supporting their customers as they extend their storage footprint from existing on-premise environments into the public cloud. This will create significant services revenue for the leading partners. To add value, resellers could help their clients have total visibility over usage to see if they can stretch their compute or data resources further. The channel could also provide advice and help customers develop their own data fabric strategy to ensure they have total access to data held anywhere to build the next great, revenue-generating, digital service.


Sander Groot, head of EMEA channel, Juniper Networks

From a technologies perspective, we are focusing on the added value of AI in IT, following our acquisition of Mist Systems, and we will continue this workstream and focus in the fourth quarter. Throughout the quarter, the training and development of our channel partners is another key priority, particularly with regard to AI, automation, telemetry and Wi-Fi. Beyond this, we will be continuing our work with EMEA distributors and resellers to help us further grow our presence in the region.


James Anderson, EMEA vice-president of alliances & partners, Ivanti

IT and cyber security operations have traditionally been siloed within businesses, often due to management decisions to break down overarching goals and assign smaller actions to different parts of the company. While it is a sensible decision to specialise, this can lead to a lack of data sharing within an organisation. A siloed approach to IT operations throughout the channel can negatively affect decision-making, efficiency and security in the long term as insular departments don’t have a complete understanding of what others are undertaking, and this can lead to duplicated actions.

The world of IT has become far more complex and the siloed nature of IT will become harder to maintain as companies increasingly migrate to the cloud and employees become even more flexible and mobile. Adopting a unified approach to IT will allow channel partners, vendors and distributors to bring visibility, collaboration, agility and innovation to a siloed industry across the channel.

This can reduce the likelihood of different departments relying on incompatible systems in addition to saving resources by ensuring actions are not duplicated between teams – ultimately leading to more informed decision-making.


Justin Sutton-Parker, partner director for Northern Europe, Citrix

Against a backdrop of climate change that is already causing a 1°C rise in global temperature, talking about carbon emissions, sustainability and the green agenda is not something the channel should avoid any longer. The channel will have an important role to play in advising organisations on how they can transition workloads from less efficient and potentially unsustainable on-premise datacentres to hyperscale-hosted cloud services.

The pollution created by datacentres is estimated at 23% of the current total of global emissions created by ICT. As energy is responsible for 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring electricity is used efficiently and sustainably is essential to reduce the environmental impact of datacentres. The current industry average for datacentre PUE is 1.58, while cloud hyperscale service providers are delivering ratios as low as 1.1.

This is achieved through strict efficiency measures, such as removing unnecessary components from IT hardware, harnessing virtualisation capabilities to maximise utilisation, optimising power distribution, managing airflow, adjusting thermostatic operating parameters and leveraging natural cooling. As a result, some hyperscale providers are achieving up to seven times more computing per unit of energy than was historically feasible.

Looking ahead, we can expect organisations to place increasing focus on lessening the environmental impact of their datacentre footprint. As a reseller, why not help to bring people to a more viable and sustainable ICT environment?


Dave Sobel, senior director MSP evangelism, SolarWinds MSP

The channel always needs to have one eye on the broader conversation about technology, and for the fourth quarter they should be thinking about data and privacy. Large and small brands are grappling with where they will fall along the spectrum of privacy protection and how they will manage customer data, as users become more aware of personal risk. The channel has an opportunity to get ahead of questions about how it uses data and what it does to protect the privacy of its customers.

This isn’t just about regulation, although GDPR and similar laws do mean the channel should be thinking about this already. It’s about differentiation – soon customers will want to have tricky conversations about trust with their providers, and those that already have policies on data ethics will have an advantage.


Nicolas Capitoni, senior director, channel EMEA, Open Systems

For me, secure SD-WAN as a managed service offering represents one of the most significant opportunities in the channel. As minimum bandwidth and latency requirements have grown across industry verticals with companies moving to the cloud, players in the channel have long had to evolve their offering to keep pace with those needs.

To meet business requirements, managed SD-WAN offers two key qualities lacking in previous SD-WAN offerings. First, it limits resellers’ exposure to the strain of ongoing customer support: in the context of a skills shortage across the networking profession, MSPs can be an attractive solution that avoids the need for customers to on-board and upskill staff while also keeping the reseller’s focus on what they do best. Second, with the growing focus across industries on data protection looking unlikely to slow down, resellers need to offer comprehensively secure solutions. SD-WAN can be set up to bake security standards in at the network level, while buying it in as a managed service outsources the labour of regulatory compliance.

Carlo Longhi, director & general manager, indirect channels UK & Ireland, Xerox

Throughout the fourth quarter, the print industry will continue to accelerate its transition from physical to digital. Digital transformation will continue to extend beyond hardware as customers (particularly SMEs) will look towards trusted partners to support their digital transformation agenda and the shift towards managed services and solutions. As we enter the final quarter of the year, we’ll see even more customers looking for partners and manufacturers that can support these new requirements.

At Xerox, we’re looking forward to working with channel partners to develop new opportunities for them through our software solutions, technologies, and our value-added services. In the next quarter, we will be concentrating on delivering services and solutions to our partners, which will be focusing on cloud-based content management solutions and intelligent workplace services (IWS) offerings.

The fourth quarter offers concrete opportunities for those in the channel who can genuinely deliver on driving and supporting customers towards digital transformation. Channel players can help their customers to navigate the forecast changes, and succeed in the face of the predicted challenges, by adding value to their customers through cloud-based services and robust MSP solutions.


Mark Simon, managing director, EMEA, Datto

It is a particularly exciting time for managed service providers (MSPs). Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are serviced by MSPs spent more than $25bn on IT in 2018, and the MSP spending growth rate has increased by 25% over the last couple of years – a huge opportunity for MSPs.

SMEs need MSPs to help with a number of critical tasks: navigate increasingly complex technology, tackle security challenges such as ransomware and data protection requirements, migrate to cloud services, and achieve their digital transformation goals.

Many SMBs still work with traditional files, folders and mapped drives. Microsoft Teams is a great platform to transform these processes, integrating with lots of applications that can bring small businesses into the digital age. MSPs should spend time with their clients to understand how they currently operate and what processes could be transformed, and then help them implement a solid digitisation strategy.

The challenge – and the biggest opportunity – is getting small businesses to trust their needs to an MSP, as some still try to manage their IT themselves.

The key for MSPs is to demonstrate clearly what value they bring to the table. Bundling services takes away some of the price pressure and comparison. But the most significant benefit is the standardisation of the MSP offering, as a more consistent stack means more efficient client support. This results in happier clients and a more profitable business.


Florian Malecki, international product marketing senior director, StorageCraft

Data volumes are on the rise globally. IDC forecasts 10x growth by 2023 alone. As organisations struggle to scale their data and IT infrastructures, channel companies have a rich and exciting business opportunity to expand their data management, protection and recovery services and solutions.

As we enter the fourth quarter of 2019, a lot of organisations will be looking at their 2020 IT budgets and considering their business priorities. Business continuity will be high on the list, because it is a strategic imperative for businesses of all sizes. Data loss is up 400% since 2012, yet 68% of SMEs don’t have a disaster recovery plan.

This trend speaks for itself. Channel organisations that leverage this market opportunity and help their customers to scale their data consumption with ease and at attractive economics – regardless of whether their data is on-premise, off-premise or in the cloud – will win big. What is more, channel companies that can offer this scale with enterprise-class management and protection, including instant recovery in the event of data outage, will win even bigger.

Something else to be mindful of in the fourth quarter of this year is the annual surge in online search and transactions. The buying cycles around Black Friday and Christmas represent big business and revenue opportunities for many companies. However, they also attract “bad actors”, likely resulting in increased number of breaches.

Starting in September, IT services companies should look out for their customers to prepare and plan ahead. They can help their customers to reduce the risk by assessing and testing security posture, back-up and recovery systems early.


Uri Kogan, vice-president of product marketing, Nuxeo

AI has numerous potential use cases in modern enterprises, and one of these is in significantly improving security and compliance – particularly in ensuring General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance. “

Even if an organisation has a complete 360-degree view of its customers – which few do – the documents associated with those customers, and the potential personally identifiable information (PII) data stored within them, are often blind spots. This is where AI comes in. A custom-trained AI tool can quickly scan a document and identify what it is and, crucially, what’s in it.

This is about businesses being able to train their own custom AI models using business-specific datasets. And this is not just structured data, as held in core business systems, but unstructured content too.


Scott Murphy, director of cloud UK&I, Ingram Micro

When it comes to security, channel partners must focus on the experiences and struggles that their clients are facing day to day. Cyber security is no longer an after-thought.

It is not just a matter of protecting against the threats that we are faced with now, but safeguarding our workplaces for tomorrow and beyond.

We equip our partners with market-leading cyber security solutions to mitigate the risks of new-breed cyber attacks. I am confident that the future is looking bright for cyber security.

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