Ingram sees growing cloud momentum in Canada

Renee Bergeron

Ingram Micro cloud and managed services chief Renée Bergeron

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Canadian businesses aren’t turning to the cloud at quite the same rate as their U.S.-based compatriots.

But Renée Bergeron, Ingram Micro’s North American cloud chief (and a Canadian herself) sees that shifting. The distributor doubled its cloud business in 2011, and is ahead of schedule to do so again in 2012, she said in a meeting during the VentureTech Network Spring Invitational late last week in Colorado Springs. Things may have been progressing more slowly in Canada than elsewhere historically – but that all changed in the fall of last year.

“We’re really seeing growing momentum,” Bergeron said.

And that’s particularly true in the area of remote infrastructure management – far and away the most popular category of cloud-based solutions Ingram is selling to Canadian solution providers.

“There are valid concerns about security and outages, real concerns, and you have to make sure you partner with a vendor who’s got the right level of security and redundancy, but resellers are getting more and more comfortable with these topics,” Bergeron said.

Part of the lag has been the classic Canadian conservatism – but that’s eroding as cloud becomes much more mainstream, and more businesses become familiar with peers’ successes with cloud solutions. Of course, a big part of the distributor’s value proposition in the cloud space is that vendors that make its linecard have been vetted – both in terms of the their willingness and ability to work with solution providers and in terms of the technology they provide meeting the grade. That makes it a lot easier for VARs to get signed up, Bergeron suggests.

“Resellers are always telling me that it’s hard to do the due diligence with the solutions, and to sign contracts with the vendors,” she said. “But if they work through Ingram, they’ve got a simplified process.”

The linecard continues to expand – and with the company’s Cloud Summit event just weeks away, expect more partnerships to be announced. Accessibility at a national level is always a concern, and nowhere is that moreseo the case than in the cloud, where privacy and other regulatory issues can a be a showstopper for Canadian VARs looking to work with vendors from other countries.

But Bergeron said that where applicable, it’s typically spinning up partnerships with multinational cloud vendors in Canada bout six weeks after those partnerships go live in the U.S. And at the same time, the company continues to seek specific “made in Canada” cloud solutions where they make sense.

“It’s one thing to have global vendors that deliver in local countries, but it’s also important to have a number of local companies that specialize in a market.”

At VTN, Bergeron shared some statistics from the company’s cloud partners:

  • 71.5 per cent of VARs surveyed are selling cloud services, with another 21.7 per cent planning to get on board in the next year. Only 6.8 per cent said they had no plans.
  • However, a lot of partners appear to be “kicking the tires” with a few select customers – the vast majority of VARs Ingram works with in the cloud have fewer than 500 seats of cloud-based solutions deployed – only 10.9 per cent have more than 1,000 managed customer seats.
  • Of the cloud solutions being sold, 74 per cent are to a VAR’s existing customers – 26 per cent are to new customers.
  • Any lastly, while VTN partners were among the company’s early adopters when it comes to cloud, other groups are now growing much fater. While Ingram doubled its cloud bookings in 2011, VTN members grew their cloud bookings through Ingram by about 28 per cent over the same timframe. Meanwhile, members of Ingram’s SMB Alliance saw their bookings of Ingram-sold cloud services jump by 136 per cent.

“You guys were the early movers. You adopted managed services and cloud before others did, but others are catching up,” she cautioned VTN members. “They’re adopting cloud solutions faster, and that presents both an opportunity and a threat for all of you.”

Next up on Bergeron’s agenda: the company’s third annual Cloud Summit, June 4-6 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Although only three years old, it’s an event that’s seen a lot of evolution – and this year, Bergeron said, the focus is on moving from cheerleading and educating to more actionable business items.’

“A lot of the discussion is on driving the business forward,” Bergeron said. “We’re moving from 101, to 201 and 301 stuff – our resellers have grown and adopted, they’ve drank the Kool-Aid. Now we need to help them get to the next level.

There will, of course, be some best practices shared – including Ingram’s own lessons from shifting its sales associates’ compensation model to one that better and more accurately recognizes the small recurring revenues nature of cloud sales.

Bergeron said she would use the event to put some attention on application development – a skillset that the distributor increasingly believes is critical for solution providers going forward. While PaaS and IaaS are growing more rapidly than SaaS, software as a service still represents the biggest cloud-based opportunity, and Bergeron does not see that balance shifting too far anytime in the near future.

“Resellers have got to get in the game on the business apps side of thing,” she said, suggesting that it’s such an app-centric world that solution providers that choose not to participate risk losing even established customers to upstarts that do.