Weka’s Channel Predictions for 2021

2021 in many ways will be as challenging of 2020 but will also present opportunity to the Channel to reinvent itself.

Charla Bunton-Johnson, Global Director of Partner Sales, Development, Marketing, and Channel Chief, WekaIO

By Charla Bunton-Johnson, Global Director of Partner Sales, Development, Marketing, and Channel Chief, WekaIO, Inc.



Many years ago, I started my career in the Channel working for Ingram Micro (at the time called Micro D). The Channel was much simpler then being made up of VARs, VADs, direct marketers, distributors, and vendors.  The Channel today is an explosion of different profiles making the Channel more complex than ever with advanced solutions and niche offerings solving customers big problems. These solutions that enable the creation of COVID-19 vaccines, save global economies with major trend analytics and much more. The Channel has to be leaner and more focused than ever, knowing where to look for business as the landscape evolves.


Consolidation of the Channel

Over the past two years there has been a high number of reseller consolidations – mergers and acquisitions.

In 2021, there will be a continued consolidation of resellers due to COVID-19 effects, but there is also turning point in the market with high-performance and very specialized workloads are accelerating this behavior. Resellers are looking to broaden their reach and diversify their solution offerings to be more competitive in the market, which can include modern applications of AI/ML.  Without having this innate knowledge in their organizations, resellers or capital/equity/investment partners, are acquiring other resellers that have vendor alliances in the AI space plus POC lab space for HPC + AI/ML infrastructure to enable test drive solutions with their customers.


Silver Lining for Cloud or Service?

Shifting budgets and jobs due to the pandemic makes it harder for companies to find the next solution to fit their needs without breaking the bank.  Cloud Service Provides (CSPs) are creating new solutions like on-premises cloud infrastructure to be more attractive to buyers share shifting some of the dollars away from capital expenses to OPEX.  Also, OEMs and server partners are leveraging their own cloud infrastructure to drive revenue for everything-as-a-service working against the aims of CSPs.  In 2021, Channel partners will need to offer a cloud strategy with multiple offerings and brands to showcase a value-based solution in the midst of the crisis economy levering every dollar they can. For example, if a channel partner is offering AI, find the best offering for AI in the cloud.  Being proficient in multiple environments and giving customers data center agility will pay off when the crisis is over.


Data is King and Currency

Companies that maximize the value of their data will outperform and get to market quicker.  They will become increasingly agile, more adept at meeting customer needs and ultimately more profitable. In the 2021 there will tremendous growth in acquiring data, seeing the implementation of a Chief Data Office rather than just a CIO, hiring data architects/data scientist to process the data and integrating high performance infrastructure, accelerated compute, networking and storage. The Channel businesses that can help customers accelerate any, better yet all, of those three areas will be profitable. In the Channel, understanding the data and workflows in a given industry, accelerating time to insight by bringing solutions to data scientists and having a mastery of integrating high performance infrastructure will be the differentiator.



2021 will necessitate the Channel re-evaluating the importance of the Sales Engineer (SE) and the ratio of SE to salespeople. Instead of having one SE for multiple salespeople, there will be a shift in having multiple SEs per salesperson.  This will allow a scale of opportunities to be worked in tandem ultimately bringing in more revenue. Bringing a consultative “selling” approach that doesn’t focus on just one product/services but on the end to end solution (reference architectures) will be a differentiator to customers.  In the case of Weka, our channel partners should understand selling storage in key verticals and modern applications such as AI. But taking it further partners need to understand what else is needed to ensure a successful solution. Customers won’t hesitate to look elsewhere if you don’t understand how the elements fit together for their demanding AI needs. Or worse a solution is sold that doesn’t deliver on expectations or allow the customer to grow with its business.



2021 in many ways will be as challenging of 2020 but will also present opportunity to the Channel to reinvent itself. Reinvent itself by focusing on a deeper consultative approach to a partnership with customers and an emphasis on value-based selling of solutions rather than quick revenue.  The Channel will need to embrace modern workloads that are driving technology shifts in the marketing and prepare their own businesses to embrace that knowledge to further support their customer base ultimately to solve big problems.




Bio for Ms. Bunton-Johnson:

Experienced leader, executive, and manager with 25 years of marketing and sales experience with Channel, alliances, OEMs, and overall partnerships across AI/ML, enterprise storage, security, networking, graphics, and software businesses. Ms. Bunton-Johnson joined WekaIO coming from NVIDIA enterprise 2+ years ago.  Charla developed and launched the Weka Innovation Network (WIN), a global partner program, to enable reseller and OEM partner success selling Weka.

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