Stuart Monk - Fotolia
Many organisations in the public sector had been moving towards the cloud over the past few years, but the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the move and sparked opportunities for the channel to provide services and support.
The vast majority of customers have found themselves operating in a hybrid environment, with legacy applications holding back some of the movement to cloud, looking for help with the challenges that the situation generates.
“Living in that hybrid world, effectively a new environment for [customers], it isn’t all cloud or all on-premise. When you’re in the hybrid world with new cloud services being launched all the time, you’ve got some challenges around optimisation, security and data compliance, and around not getting tied into any one cloud,” said Tim Skinner, sales director of the public sector at NetApp.
“So we’re seeing quite a lot of realisation around the benefits of being in a hybrid world, which is where [customers are] going to be for a while, and we’re getting into a lot of conversations with customers around enabling and optimising them in that space.
“This next wave of hybrid cloud environment is where your partner is going to be more important than ever. Where the environment is good for partners is where we’re in a high transition, with new technologies and mixed environments.
“While we help our customers optimise the hybrid world, where they don’t want to be tied into a single cloud, [...] the role that we see our partners playing in this, and the value they will bring, is more important than ever.”
The impact of the virus has been to speed up public sector projects that address working from home and virtual private network (VPN) security access, but it has also slowed progress concerning legacy data and on-premise projects.
“We’re seeing a pick up again, with customers in government looking at the best places to keep their data,” Skinner said, adding that many users were starting to work out which workloads belonged where. “We’re seeing a bit more of a stocktake now, and probably a bit more of a realistic and medium-term view to decision-making.”
Skinner is also involved with TechUK and sits on its central government council with an aim of getting more smaller firms involved with supplying the public sector.
He has seen first hand how the market has opened up for more small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) players, and the commitment from the government to getting a wider spectrum of suppliers onto frameworks.
“A higher proportion of my public sector business is done through smaller organisations. Government very broadly wants to deal with SMEs, more so moving forward,” he added. “We’re seeing quite a mix, and I see a mix through the big systems integrators into medium-sized resellers. We’ve got a couple of very embryonic startup companies that we’re working with.”
Most channel companies have reported that the public sector has been strong during Covid-19, and NetApp has also responded to the changing demands from the market.
“We’re continuing to invest in the public sector. We’ve added headcount and we’ve expanded our business, and we’re moving broadly into newer areas,so it’s an important part of our business and it’s a really important sector in terms of engaging partners,” said Skinner.