How managed services providers can extend their portfolio and technical capabilities without the additional financial investment

managed servicesKaren Griffith, Practice Lead, Cloud Solutions EMEA has over 15 years’ experience in the IT industry. She and her highly skilled technical team work with customers within the full lifecycle of Cloud Services, from the initial asset discovery, pre-sales including POT’s and POC’s, to the Cloud Strategy and Architecture Services and on to the cloud migration, transformation and automation services

We all want to say yes to our customers and everyone I meet prides themselves in providing their customers with a great service. But for many businesses working in the managed services industry, finding the balance between offering your customers the support they need across numerous different technologies verses being able to maintain a healthy profit is a constant and intense balancing act.

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Posted under IT infrastructure

The race to e-Christmas – will it be trouble free?

Christian Magirus, VP at Avnet Services EMEA

A recent IMRG study found the internet is expected to account for 27% of sales for multi-channel retailers during the last quarter of this year. eCommerce has been growing very strongly for more than 10 years, and mobile commerce have added even more impetus to this trend. Last year, Forrester predicted that European online retail sales will grow 11% a year up to 2017. The pace of growth will be fastest, at 18% per year, in southern European countries like Italy and Spain. eCommerce system performance will therefore be a significant source of revenue generation and an especially important area for retailers’ attention as the year draws to a close this year.

 

But how can we really prepare for this onslaught of consumers? Solution providers and value-added resellers (VARs) in EMEA need to turn to the most effective solutions to help their retail clients optimise eCommerce systems for this end-of-year increase in demand.

 

The busiest day overall in terms of internet purchasing is predicted to be the first Monday in December, although the peak day does vary by retailer. Some department store chains in Europe are predicting the busiest day in the run up to Christmas will be ‘Cyber Sunday’, when shoppers, armed with one of the final pay packets of the year, will hit the Internet to buy most of their presents.

 

Solution providers and VARs are in an excellent position to contribute to trouble free online ordering, transaction processing and logistics for their retail clients. These following practical steps are designed to help partners address their retail clients’ business challenges, such as eCommerce system slowdowns and failures:

  • Sort recurring website ‘issues’ now, don’t wait  Partners should work with their retail clients to baseline eCommerce sites before the holiday season begins, helping retailers immediately recognise if something abnormal occurs to the website functionality during the holiday season. Also, auditing sites allows partners and retailers to identify small and recurring errors that could multiply during times of heavy site traffic. Remediating these seemingly small problems before the holiday season, such as simply reducing errors written to logs, can significantly improve site performance during critical periods.
  • Assess sites to reduce risk – Partners should also carefully review retailers’ local and edge caching strategies, which often have not been updated since their sites went live. Any adjustments made should be tested to reduce the risk of a poorly performing site. Additionally, partners should examine retailers’ sites holistically. An assessment of items such as infrastructure stability, bandwidth usage, network backups and other back-end systems can help identify areas that could have a negative impact under increased holiday transactional loads.
  • Improve the omnichannel experience  In this digitally savvy world, customers now expect easy access to eCommerce sites through any device. Partners can work with retailers to incorporate solutions such as responsive web design (RWD), into retailers’ sites. This allows retailers to build one set of source code that can be adapted to any new device – smartphones, tablets, desktop browsers, etc.
  • Proactive site management leads to early detection of issues – Partners should also ensure that their retail clients have quantitative and qualitative tools to help IT support teams proactively manage the site during heavy loads. Actively monitoring user experiences can help retailers rapidly pinpoint issues, such as long-running pages and bad promotion codes, as they arise, reducing their impact to improve the customer experience during the e-Christmas rush.
  • Support for the support teams – As trusted advisors, partners should also discuss customer support team communication strategies with retailers. Customer support teams are often not as familiar with eCommerce sites as they need to be. By making time before the holiday season to gauge the support team’s confidence, retailers can help ensure support teams have 100% proficiency navigating and working on eCommerce sites. If needed, partners and retailers can create refresher training programmes to review overall operations, with an emphasis on explaining changes that have occurred since the previous year’s holiday season.

For more information please email: biz-sol.emea@avnet.com.

Posted under E-Commerce

This post was written by on November 17, 2014

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“In the channel we need to solve business issues, not just push products”

Wayne Gratton, EMEA SolutionsPath business development director

Recent market insights have shown that growth in the IT market overall is relatively flat. In Western Europe alone the market has only experienced one percent growth, worth €1.513 billion ($2.07bn). Today, growth in IT is about market segments where solutions are packaged up from multiple IT components into single, optimised computing solutions, such as converged infrastructure and virtualisation technologies. For example, commodity servers are growing at a rate of 1.3 percent whereas converged infrastructure is at 54 percent. Vertical markets are also becoming more important to channel market growth. Finance, healthcare, retail and government are presenting bigger opportunities for the channel. In Western Europe alone, government spending on IT is €53 billion ($72bn).

Vertical growth markets

These are growth markets that are pushing the channel towards selling market specialisations and ‘whole’ solutions rather than single IT components. Resellers need to focus on this if they are to stay ahead of the competition. For players in the IT channel to achieve this distributors also need to adapt to a new, more vertically focused consultative role as a key component of channel enablement.

It’s no longer about selling the latest product in the market; it’s about helping customers to achieve their goals facilitated by IT. Distribution has a big part to play to enable the channel to understand their customers’ businesses and IT needs in their vertical markets. How business is conducted and how people work today is completely different to how it was five years ago. The global workforce is more digitally savvy, brought on by more access to information and development of the Internet, social networking and the proliferation of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones in the enterprise. Such trends have forced a big shift in end customers’ needs and consequently, the IT channel is now being driven by having to address business challenges rather than simply pushing products.

Looking at addressing only one area of the mobility trend, for example, like security is a common misunderstanding which results in resellers overlooking areas of IT growth like virtualisation for mobile data storage. In addition, vertical growth sectors like healthcare, where mobility solutions need to be strategically tailored, are often ignored. It’s important for resellers to understand there are different drivers in vertical sectors such as: security features in healthcare are focused around data protection for digital health records over and above supporting trends like remote working.

More consultative role for distributors

All of this is not only changing a reseller’s approach to selling products but it’s changing the role of the distributor. To deliver optimised solutions rather than just standard commodity technologies, distributors now have a wider ecosystem at their finger tips where they deal with everything from large system integrators to managed service providers. A distributor’s enablement strategies should be geared towards how to target and position technologies to meet business challenges rather than just talking about what technologies do in a standalone way.

The value added services a distributor provides are now more about addressing growth markets – whether that’s vertically focused or technology focused like big data – and helping resellers understand these. Whether it’s virtual or physical IT assets, a simple upgrade or a capacity issue, today distributors should be at the centre of the value chain. They should take complex products and help resellers solve business issues their customers encounter. Distributors can help resellers look at how to apply technology rather than the other, more conventional way around of only looking at the technology features.

Channel resellers can leverage a distributor’s global relationships and local expertise in these growth areas to deliver an effective supply chain which is married with local insight on in-country trends to support end customer needs. For this reason, overall, distribution is more consultative as it’s about bringing knowledge and alliances together more than ever before. As consultants, distributors need to facilitate the training resellers requirement to learn more about these markets so they can sell best-of-breed solutions which address business needs, in each vertical sector. This also means distributors need to get involved in business planning to look at key IT trends for growth. This will allow them to take the time to show resellers, partners and end customers how to capitalise on the exciting, ever evolving IT marketplace.

Posted under Globalisation, SolutionsPath

This post was written by on June 9, 2014

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Managing the IT estate has never been so important

IT Estate Management expert specialist

Simon Ellis, Director Estate Management Solutions and Services EMEA

Following Avnet Technology Solutions acquisition of Mattelli during the summer, we caught up with Simon Ellis to understand the Estate Management solutions that form a cornerstone of Avnet’s comprehensive services portfolio.

Today’s CIO is under attack. Business demands new offerings and improved service levels but all within a reduced budget. Now, more than ever, organisations have to maximise the value of existing IT investments. When new investment is called for, a clear understanding of the entire IT landscape and return on investment (ROI) is an absolute requirement. Add to that, the question of compliance and regulation and it’s no wonder the CIO and IT managers are under so much pressure.

Understanding how to ‘sweat the assets’ is increasingly difficult to do in a mixed hardware and software estate. Various commercial agreements and deployment measures, different replacement lifecycles and a variety of deployment and commercial opportunities add to the complexity.

At Avnet we believe in complete lifecycle estate management, supporting our channels partners and end customers from ‘cradle to grave’ with their IT estates. Avnet’s solution allows IT managers to begin with today’s pain points whether that’s coming from a commercial or a deployment focal point.

Estate Management services offer Avnet’s channel new incremental opportunities and revenue streams by building closer and deeper relationships with their existing customer base while also offering new services to the market to gain new clients.

So, what is Estate Management?

Estate Management allows IT and business managers to manage all aspects of their IT estate: from contracts, renewals, compliance, deployment and staff through to future purchasing. Making critical data readily available in this way means IT managers can easily spot potential opportunities for savings, consolidation and optimisation. More importantly, end of life products and those ‘out of support’ are identified and therefore more easily actioned. Not having good visibility of IT hardware and software that’s no longer supported by the vendor can be a substantial risk to the business.

Overall, effective estate management solutions puts information directly into the hands of the IT managers to allow them to make smarter, more informed decisions to meet tight budgets.

What are the key benefits?

From specific project needs through to complete management of an IT estate, Estate Management solutions available today can cover a range of areas which can be used in isolation or together to form a comprehensive overview of a company’s IT infrastructure.

These benefits include:

Contracts and renewals

  • Contracts and renewals are assets to an organisation. They define the ‘rights to use and consume’ products and services from vendors and resellers. By enabling proactive management of contracts and renewals applicable to your estate you can improve commercial management and identify new opportunities.

Discovery and estate baseline

  • Identifying what hardware and software is deployed in an estate is critical to defining your ‘as-is’ position and provides detailed knowledge to optimise the estate for the future. Managing your estate correctly requires a solid baseline from which the user can understand, govern and assess changes, new deployments and opportunities as they arise.

Common language and visualisation

  • Bring a common language to all your assets enabling you to ask questions such as: ‘show me all databases,’ ‘show me all servers,’ ‘show me all virtualization’ in your estate. Visualise where assets are located and how they relate to each other which allows deeper insight into your estate.

Modelling

  • Managing an estate also means planning for the future, looking how existing estates can be transformed, scaled up, removed from and augmented. Implementing an effective estate management solution can help the user to model changes in the estate and to look at the commercial impact.

Opportunity identification

  • Analysis of contract and discovered estate uncovers areas of opportunity and pin-points issues. This can help to highlight product and service cross sell and upsell where applicable.

What does this have to do with the channel?

Customer spend is getting tighter, the mantra ‘to do more with less’ applies to CIOs, IT managers and also to channel partners who manage their customer estates today.

Estate Management solutions provide the channel with new opportunities for incremental revenue from their existing customers by providing tools to gain deeper insight into existing customer estates, helping to identify new service opportunities thus enabling the channel to offer improved services and value to their customer base.

Posted under Estate Management, IT infrastructure

The channel’s need for Open Source Sofware (OSS) strategy

 

OSS expert, IT software expert

Ed Bateman, Director Storage, Software & MOB Business EMEA

Most businesses today are looking at ways to further improve IT efficiency, to provide scalability, flexibility and to lower overall costs. As a result, I believe Open Source Software (OSS) and what it offers has never been more relevant to helping address these challenges. OSS continues to grow in prevalence and relevance, millions of mobile devices rely on the technology in one way or another without us even realising it. From standard Operating Systems (OS) to virtualization, from middleware technology to applications, the number of systems and devices using this technology continues to increase substantially. Consequently, it’s vital the channel embraces and understands OSS to best provide choice for customers.

So, what is open source?

OSS is how all software was originally developed. Software applications are built from source code but OSS generally refers to software for which the source code is freely available to the public for personal use. OSS source code can be shared with all developers for modifications, which enables programmers to build and maintain OSS technology for a faster turnaround on making improvements, increased flexibility and some may even argue: better security.

What are the key benefits?

OSS available on the market today is a collaborative, public offering which is highly interoperable with existing systems, making deployment much simpler and more cost effective. OSS offers the opportunity to increase the quality, integration and pace of software throughout an entire organisation, lowering costs and improving the flexibility of IT infrastructure.

No vendor lock-in

  • As the source code is available to all, users aren’t locked into specific vendors, developers or costly software upgrade cycles. Developed through Open Standards, OSS gives freedom of choice, more control to switch vendors and makes upgrading or scaling up/down costs much lower.

Reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

  • This is a major challenge most of today’s organisations. With no software licensing fees OSS provides a clear advantage over proprietary software as it requires less hardware power to deliver the same tasks as conventional server solutions. Companies can also stay in control of the software due to it adaptable nature, whilst keeping costs down due to this software’s low maintenance requirements.

Flexibility over proprietary systems

  • Of paramount importance in the IT infrastructure arena, OSS allows for easier migration to new hardware and offers a higher level of customisation through access to the source code.

Scalability

  • OSS is hardware independent – a feature that’s built in at design level, making OSS very scalable. This enables IT managers to meet their IT business needs for today and tomorrow, reducing overheads and helping to meet budgets.

Security

  • With the influx of private, personal and sensitive data currently being handled by organisations, security is now more important than ever before. OSS by its very nature is ‘open to all’ and since this growing ‘community’ of users regularly scan code for errors, potential security exposures are spotted early and bugs are fixed rapidly, making OSS inherently more secure.

What does this have to do with the channel?

To take advantage of the growing number of opportunities available to the channel, thanks to open source, a confident knowledge of the technology is essential. Organisations require specific expertise and skills to ensure that open source solutions are successfully implemented to make the most of what they have to offer, such as the financial gain.

By adopting an open source strategy, companies can achieve considerable cost savings in terms of reduced upfront capital investment and ongoing maintenance as the ‘open’ aspect of OSS gives users the opportunity to adjust their IT environments with ease as a response to ever changing business requirements.

Open source technology enables partners to offer high quality, highly available best-of-breed solutions to customers, thus presenting the best option for maximising the efficiency, security and cost effectiveness of computing and cloud enterprises.

Posted under IT infrastructure, IT Software