With data centre migration and expansion investments increasing, and Australian customers pursuing transformation agendas, the channel is preparing to capitalise.
Revealed via EDGE Research, data centre investments rank as a leading priority for customers during the next 12 months, creating opportunity for partners to overlay services and solutions on top.
But in assessing the Australian market, and channel ecosystem, what are the key building blocks to a profitable private cloud offering?
“All customers are on a multi-cloud journey, and must determine their needs based on workload, business requirements and available technologies,” observed Shant Soghomonian, general manager of channel sales Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ) at Dell EMC.
“The channel has a unique opportunity to oversee this journey, as well as guide the cloud strategy of its customers and become effective service providers.”
For Soghomonian, a key component of this journey is the customer’s private cloud strategy.
“The infrastructure layer is the core building block in a conventional three-tier or converged / hyper-converged architecture, alongside software-defined infrastructure and a management layer that allows a scalable customer environment,” Soghomonian added.
“Finally, the security and data protection building blocks are critical - they ensure that data is secure and protected wherever and however it’s accessed.”
In assessing the local market, Nathan Knight - general manager of data centre group across A/NZ at Lenovo - cited “cost, reliability and efficiency” as the key pillars of a profitable private cloud offering.
“A private cloud has to be cost-effective - it needs to maximise the density of workloads it can handle while minimising hardware and software management costs,” Knight explained. “It also needs to be reliable because any downtime for a business is lost revenue.
“Through robust deployment of reliable hardware and software built on reliable infrastructure, downtime can be reduced or even eliminated.
“Lastly, a private cloud offering that automates manual maintenance or admin tasks makes the business more efficient and reduces operating costs.”
Irrespective of the suite of solutions however, Geoff Wright - vice president of channel and commercial sales at Huawei - believes partners should take a step back from the technology to instead focus attention on the requirements of the customer.
“Without the ability to have a trained and skilled team of sales people and technical architects who can work with customers and both understand and respond to their needs then you may as well give up at first base,” he said.
“Those needs are not just from a technical perspective but on the pricing, the packaging and the type of commercial relationship through the life of the agreement.”
Therefore, Wright said the channel must build upon such a relationship with vendors and suppliers, favouring those that “sell with you like partners and not sell to you like a customer”.
“Just like the relationship with your customers you want it to be long-term and mutually beneficial,” he added. “Get those elements right and the technology piece becomes the easier piece of the puzzle.”
On the edge
As workforces become more distributed, Knight added that the centralised cloud structure also has to adapt and change.
“Adopting edge solutions means that information is held closer to where it is used, increasing speed, saving time and money,” he said. “The value proposition for a business partner is local market knowledge, insights and tailored expertise.
“A partner’s knowledge of the technology landscape, local and vertical market idiosyncrasies, can provide a competitive advantage. Coupled with a predictable, consistent fixed price to a partner means that operation and management of a private cloud is covered, leaving the business to focus on what it does best.”
Taking the conversation further, Wright of Huawei acknowledged that in 2019, edge computing forms a key part of any discussion on the infrastructure requirements of a customer.
“Not all data needs to be saved and not all computing needs to be done in the core,” Wright outlined. “Not only does edge computing bring reduced data traffic and distributes the computing load in any system but it also allows for new technologies to be added to existing and new cloud systems.”
Meanwhile, and according to Soghomonian, edge solutions has progressed into a “critical component” of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies.
“There are a number of business and technology requirements driving this, including workload and application requirements, user access, latency and bandwidth, local interactivity, privacy and security, as well as limited autonomy,” he added.
“When advising your customers, it’s become essential to consider the applications of edge solutions to multi-cloud strategy.”
Soghomonian said that one of the initial driving forces of cloud adoption is the ability for customers to scale and shift away from investments in on-premises IT.
“Partners for many years have played a critical role in providing a managed service to their customers,” he said.
“Alongside these services, which include customer outsourcing and dedicated private cloud offerings, partners also bring expert advice from trusted IT professionals that operate at the cutting edge.
“This expertise allows customers to shift from a costly CAPEX model towards a more flexible OPEX model for IT that allows further investment in resources that contribute to business transformation projects.”
In looking ahead, Wright said Huawei is focused on three key areas within the channel, starting with a transition to flash in the market.
“We are currently helping our partners in this area by providing flash storage on a number of our more popular products as the price of spinning disk,” he added. “Having the fastest flash storage in the market is an advantage to both our partners and customers.”
Furthermore, Wright said the technology giant is also focusing on AI within networking, driving growth through AI chips in the data centre.
“This has a critical role in delivering greater efficiencies including zero packet loss through monitoring and learning data traffic, as well as using our proprietary algorithms to prioritise and manage traffic,” he said. “We’re also focusing on innovation in server technology and edge computing.”
On the flip side, Knight said both Lenovo and partners are zoning in on “customer satisfaction” as a leading priority during the next 12 months.
“We are constantly introducing innovative solutions to help customers meet the needs of a constantly changing marketplace,” he explained. “We want our customers to stand above their peers in terms of efficiency, speed and competitiveness.
“Our most recent innovation is the unique Lenovo TruScale Infrastructure Services, which provides our customers with a completely new approach to address infrastructure costs.”
As customers continue to pursue multi-cloud agendas, Soghomonian said that in parallel, Dell EMC will increase investment around delivering on the potential of digital transformation through the channel.
“It’s important to focus on how we advise our customers, considering their workloads and desired application, as well as the associated technology and business requirements,” he summarised.
“One priority should be to enable customers to make decisions on multi-cloud, including educating them on how private cloud, public cloud and edge solutions should be utilised.
“As customers make these decisions at Dell EMC, we want to be seen by our audience as their essential infrastructure trusted adviser and partner when making their investments."
Specific to partners, Wright said the technology providers capable of “understanding customer and business needs” are best positioned to provide “incremental value” in the Australian market.
“Whether this is bringing new commercial models to customers, new technology or simply reducing customer cost in delivering technology into their business,” he advised.
According to Soghomonian, plans are in plan to enable partners to build out capabilities and become “skilled, trusted advisors” to customers, irrespective of multi-cloud maturity.
“We will continue to encourage our partners to utilise Dell EMC tools and IP to build their own informed transformation practices, including developing their own best practice and IP,” he said.
“Finally, we aim to review our partners’ current services, including managed and private cloud offerings to determine if they are able to scale and manage their environments efficiently and cost effectively.
“This will help us ensure our partners are leveraging the many financial, consumption and utility-based offerings from Dell’s financial services.”
In conclusion, Knight said partners can leverage the vendor’s TruScale offering to “free them up” and allow providers to focus on “their areas of expertise”.
“If partners are ready to take the next step in technological innovation, and differentiate themselves from their competition, Lenovo can provide them with the tools that allow them to be successful,” Knight added.
This ARN Exchange was in association with Dell EMC, Huawei and Lenovo. Photos by Christine Wong.