Three words: mobility, Cloud computing. They describe the hot spots for channel 2012, according to a broad range of industry experts.
Mobile devices will continue to storm the work zone while specialising in Cloud services is seen as a major area of opportunity.
Hiring and maintaining talented staff is also high on the agenda for businesses wanting to grow.
But the year ahead also presents many challenges due to the global economic climate and understanding how the effect of the carbon tax will impact customer spending.
IDC analyst, Matthew Oostveen, said the new tax will place a stronger emphasis on the importance of power management for a lot of organisations. Datacentre efficiency will also be front of mind as companies face higher electricity bills.
“A lot of organisations are in a position at the moment where they’re not quite sure how much they’re consuming or what’s consuming different amounts of electricity within their datacentre floor,” Oostveen said.
“Technologies like datacentre infrastructure management software will enable them to do it. The place for the system integrator and channel community is to solve these power problems for their users.
“The catalyst is the carbon tax and the opportunity is to become the trusted advisor to the organisation looking to minimise their operating expenses within the datacentre.”
'Big data' was also tipped as another hot growth plate.
“It’s a technology that has been around for sometime, but in the last 18 months we’ve started to build out the underlying capabilities to really be able to crunch and analyse information better than we could in the past,” Oostveen said.
“We’ve got faster networks, more powerful servers, more storage capability and smarter software to be able to mine these vast resources of information.
“I think the technology is at the right point to meet the market demand, which is increasing because of the amount of information that’s increasing within businesses.”
Another key area of opportunity for the channel in the New Year was automation, Oostveen said.
“We often hear about the virtualisation figures in Australia and having the highest penetration rate. But what does it mean for the community? A lot of companies have gone a long way to virtualising their infrastructure, but what weren’t doing through this process was automating,” Oostveen said.
“The next phase of opportunity for resellers is to be able to take that large install base of virtualised servers and drive efficiencies such as automation through it.”
The Cloud will continue to reign in 2012, and Oostveen tipped the private cloud will present the biggest opportunity for the channel.
“A lot of organisations are looking to move to that type of computing model and in order to get there, there’s a lot tidying up that needs to occur, you need to modernise your storage, server infrastructure and network capabilities,” he said.
Thomas Duryea is travelling down the Cloud service specialisation path in 2012.
“We’ll be working very hard to tailor Cloud services that leverage the cloud infrastructure that we’ve invested in building in the last 12 months,” Thomas Duryea CEO, Andrew Thomas, said.
It will offer specific services based on customer requirements such as managed disaster recovery and managed back up. The consulting outfit will also considerably grow staff figures across Sydney and Melbourne. It currently has about 100 staff on its books.
“That will be a big part of the way we evolve the business, and we’ll putting a stronger push into managed services that goes hand-in-hand with that,” Thomas said.
Harbour IT splashed $2.5 million on its Cloud technology.
Harbour IT director, Sean Bishop said the wider community was still a bit hesitant with Cloud technology and customers want to see how the cost analysis works for them.
Besides questions of Cloud security, one of the main challenges will be helping customers to understand the pricing model, Bishop said.
“For 2012, we’ll be helping a majority of new and existing customers to transition and put their infrastructure into the Cloud,” Bishop said.
South Australia-based Calvert Technologies will also be steering towards the Cloud, and is looking to offer its own private Cloud service and focus on Microsoft Office 365.
“We’ll be making sure we’ve got the skills to help customers migrate to the Cloud and managing their connectivity to it, whether its something we host or Microsoft,” Calvert Technologies founder, Dean Calvert, said. “Tied into that is having online back up capability, especially with mobile devices.”
Implementing a mobile device management strategy will also become an important factor for many businesses in the New Year.
“Management of systems will continue to grow especially with mobile devices coming into the organisation and company data going on to them. We have find ways of enforcing policy, security and controlling what data can go on those devices,” Calvert said.
For Melbourne-based service provider, Southern Cross Computer Systems (SCCS), the main areas of growth lie in the virtual desktop arena tied in with users gaining full functionality of mobile devices in a secure manner.
The company will implement a couple of proof of concept laboratories and creating special demonstration labs for the virtual desktop play. It will also look into areas such as governance, risk and compliance.
SCCS managing director, Mark Kalmus, tipped the unified server and storage play, was also going to be a big driver for growth.
“The range of new applications is driving more requirements for storage, which I think will continue to be a major play for the industry,” he said.
Its managed security service offering will also form a key plank in its go-to-market strategy and Kalmus hinted it was also looking to play into the business intelligence and data analytics space.
On the back of the Cloud and data boom, ASI Solutions is putting a proof-of-concept in place in conjunction with networking vendor, Brocade, focusing on offering customers a monthly fee for their network infrastructure, which will also come with a certain amount of equipment starting from a minimum spend of $500,000.
“Customers don’t know how their network will change. In a busy period they may need more bandwidth and switching, and in quieter period they’ll need less. So rather than them putting investments in where they don’t know if they’ll use it or not, with this strategy, they’ll only pay for what they use,” ASI director, Maree Lowe, said.
There was also a big focus among enterprise and government customers on being able to move information and virtual machines between datacentres, Lowe said.
“There’s still going to be considerable issues with moving virtual machines from one datacentre to another and we’re looking into some new companies that are coming into the market that will allow us to migrate virtual machine data across two datacentres,” she said.
Another hot area of growth is in the education market.
In the past couple of years, the education space has made some massive investments in technology such as notebooks, interactive whiteboards and video conferencing.
Lowe said it would turn its focus to software within the education space.
“Schools now to need to focus on what they’re going to do with the technology. There’s definite gap between what’s actually being deployed into schools and if it’s actually delivering educational benefits,” Lowe said.
“The next investments are going to be spent in trying to achieve better educational outcomes through looking at areas like software and the growth of online eLearning. We’re interested in software that allows collaboration between students and we’ve already started making some considerable investments.”
Lowe said the company would also focus on providing professional development and training for teachers thanks to the new technologies making their way into the classroom.
“If we’re going to put all this new technology in, we’ve got to assist and train teachers and that can be done online, using software or face-to-face,” she said.
Lowe also pointed to the use of mobile devices and applications presented a huge opportunity, but the challenge remained to offer something different in the market that no one is offering.
“I think it’s too dangerous to play in a field with similar players and similar products,” Lowe said. “The challenge is always looking for smarter and better products and you’ve got to surround it with knowledge, training, technical support, and be ahead of anyone that’s a potential competitor.”
Finding the right skilled people along with external factors such as the state of the economic and political climate, are a few of the challenges the industry will face.
"Globally we’re very subject to what’s happening in Europe and the financial woes… those issues effect us in terms of the dollar,” Lowe said. “If you’re bringing equipment from overseas and Australian dollar goes from $US1.05 to $US0.95, in one week, those swings are quite hurtful.”
Within the South Australian market, Calvert Technologies’ Calvert said the SME space was constrained due to the global economy and political climate.