LAS VEGAS — In a presentation that borrowed so heavily from the introduction of the iPhone that all that was missing was a black mock turtleneck and jeans, Ingram Micro chief digital officer Sanjib Sahoo announced a significant expansion of Xvantage, the distributor’s digital platform for partners, staffers, and vendors alike.
Sahoo said he was announcing “three revolutionary platforms — a technology solutions platform, a cloud platform, and an AI platform.” He then repeated those three platforms a few times before bringing the Jobsian part of his presentation to a head.
“Are you getting it? It’s one platform. It’s Xvantage,” Sahoo said.
It was a lighthearted way to introduce the latest additions to the distributor’s nascent but all-encompassing “digital twin,” as the distributor announced it was folding its Cloud Marketplace into the Xvantage environment, meaning that for the first time, Ingram customers will be able to use a single interface and experience to purchase hardware, software and subscription options for customers. Sahoo then demonstrated making just such a purchase using the system.
“Today is the day we revolutionize distribution with one truly integrated experience in this platform,” he said.
Adding cloud into Xvantage is the final step in mainstreaming the cloud business into the core of the distribution giant. When Ingram first started investing in the cloud more than a decade ago, Ingram Micro Cloud was so siloed off it often felt like a disparate entity closely allied to the central business. The distributor says it did this to allow it to grow and scale outside the constraints of the hardware and software business. Still, it also probably served as a degree of insulation for the main business in the early days if the early bet on the cloud didn’t pay off.
But they did, and while the cloud business has grown dramatically from those early days, it continues to be a hot area of growth for Ingram. And over the last few years, it has brought the cloud business closer and closer to the core.
Sahoo said that in bringing cloud into Xvantage, the company aimed to make it much easier for channel partners to access solutions previously available on disparate marketplaces — both Ingram’s and those of the hyperscale cloud vendors.
“There are a lot of marketplaces where you transact. Xvantage is a platform for managing your business,” he said.
But Ingram stressed that hyperscalers are friends and not foes in their world, discussing how close the big players have come to distribution over the last few years. Victor Baez, senior vice president of global cloud sales for Ingram Micro, said that soon, Xvantage would support bi-directional listing of cloud services with hyperscaler marketplaces — that cloud services published on Xvantage could be automatically added to cloud vendors’ marketplaces.
While integrating cloud services into Xvantage was the headliner of Sahoo’s presentation, it was a feature that seemed much more innocuous, to which many solution providers reacted most strongly. The order status screens Sahoo showed off after making his “purchase” included full tracking details for all the hardware components of the order, with real-time status details.
That capability has a vital fan in Ingram CEO Paul Bay, who, in his keynote presentation, discussed how much friction there is to take out of the experience for solution providers working with the distributor. He shared that in the U.S. business, Ingram gets 2.4 million order status requests a year, all of which have had to be managed at least somewhat manually in the past.
“We spend too much time and effort on being reactive,” Bay said. “There’s got to be a different way to do business. And we’re doing something about it.”
Bill Blum, president of New Jersey-based Alpine Business Systems, praised “the Amazon-like experience” of Xvantage, while Guy Baroan, president of New Jersey-based Baroan Technologies, said the all-in-one nature of Xvantage “is allowing us to reclaim our time, our most valuable asset.”
That notion of Xvantage as a significant time-saver for solution providers was echoed by Joanna Muzzatti, CEO of Mississauga, Ont.-based Commerx.
“It takes less than a day to do things that used to take all week. With that time, we can re-invest in our people, in training, in gaining our own efficiencies,” Muzzatti said. “It’s allowing us to envision new ways of doing business at Commerx.”
First announced at last year’s Cloud Summit, which ultimately turned out to be the final of its kind as this year the event has morphed into a Global Cloud and Innovation Summit, Xvantage started as an interface for users and Ingram employees and has recently begun to add vendors into the mix. Since its launch in the middle of last year, Ingram has added regularly to the platform, living by a decidedly un-distribution-like mantra of quickly iterating and releasing new features as soon as possible.
“Last year, we didn’t have a platform,” Sahoo said. “Today, we have one. And it’s not perfect. But every day, it’s getting a little better.”
Ingram executives provided a few more clues about expanding the platform. Jennifer Anaya, senior vice president of global marketing for Ingram, said the peer-to-peer connection engine for the distributor’s TrustX Alliance community would be brought into Xvantage. At the same time, Sahoo suggested an upcoming and expanded system for notifications from Xvantage to any device solution providers may want to be notified on and a system for solution providers to build and provision their customer-facing e-commerce storefront in the spirit of Shopify.