In depth: Review of 2009 - Reasons to be cheerful?

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In depth: Review of 2009 - Reasons to be cheerful?

Simon Quicke

This year will go down as one of recession and credit crunch. The banks collapsed and for many in January it seemed like the world was about to end. It has been tough, but as MicroScope found when it canvassed opinion, it has not been all bad news and there are plenty of positive thoughts about next year.

Nick Lowe, regional director for Northern Europe, Check Point

"It has been a very good year for us, and as our sales are 100% channel I believe it has been good for our partners.

"We are seeing strong opportunities in security; in the ­summer we put together an internal lead-generation team tasked with identifying business to pass on to our resellers. In just 10 weeks we identified more than £1m of business that was not previously on our radar, or that of our channel. But with a fresh approach, these business needs came to light.

"I am also seeing a shift away from price-led beauty parades towards long-term partnerships, which is also great for VARs."

Gary Collins, CIO, Intercept

"Put simply, 2009 has been a challenge for many in the IT channel. For those with unsteady operations it has been tough, with the UK economy as badly hit as it has been. Yet despite the uncertain global financial outlook, business in the virtualisation and cloud computing sectors has boomed like never before.

"Supported by analyst Gartner's prediction that revenue will exceed $91.5bn within five years, this is the real success story for the industry and puts the UK on a great footing to embrace 2010 with confidence."

Phil Jones, sales and marketing director, Brother UK

"2009 was the year that trade credit insurance was exposed as a vital part of how the IT channel conducts business on a daily basis. Credit cover stopped as the key insurers engaged high-speed reverse and backed out of long-standing policies at the sign of anything posing a potential risk. The government eventually stepped in with a £5bn underwriting sticking plaster, but serious questions still remain as to its effectiveness for affected businesses.

"One of the big take-home messages from this and from the credit crunch as a whole has to be that businesses should be kept optimised and streamlined through the good times to help them survive the bad. It is no good getting to a bad patch and then realising things have not been run as well as they could have been - resellers need to constantly re-evaluate their practices and procedures to make sure the hatches are permanently battened down - be it fair weather or foul.

"Finally, 2009 was the year that may have had a damaging impact on the campaign to reduce CO2 emissions and halt climate change. A recent survey for The Times found that only two in five people in Britain accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is largely man-made. We have had a lot to worry about this year, but it is worth remembering that if we don't start making inroads into the climate change issue then the events of 2009 will scarcely matter at all."

Justin Hulls, UK sales director, Cables To Go

"What this year has shown the whole channel - the whole commercial world perhaps - is that you can't just keep on doing things in the same old ways. We need new people with new ideas and a positive attitude that is also realistic, pragmatic and fair.

"That is the approach that we try to take and we hope to bring it to many more resellers in 2010."

Adam Harris, CEO, Technology Channels Association

"For many people, still being in business is the biggest achievement they could have hoped for at the end of 2009. Whether we are in a V or W curve recession will only come to light in another 12 months.

"The cloud has got the whole industry talking and IT resellers are having to look at changing business models to adapt and stay competitive within their marketplace. Opportunities are out there for us all to take advantage of if we can stay ahead of the competition and are able to adapt quickly."

John Cunningham, director of business markets, ntl:Telewest Business

"Children across the world are meticulously scribing their letters to Santa, listing their good deeds for the year and pointing out what they would consider to be adequate compensation.

"But it is not just kids who are thinking about what they would like to get in preparation for 2010, IT managers and CTOs are all beginning to work out their Christmas wish-list, and their letters may contain a little bit more than the latest games console. Cloud computing technologies and virtualised platforms will feature towards the top of the list as IT managers find the productivity and efficiency improvements these bring too good to ignore.

"As we move into an age when virtual networks, heavy data traffic and remote working become the norm, serious investment in the networks underpinning these technologies will feature prominently on a CTO's wish-list. As a result, next-generation Ethernet will be one of the most requested technology investments Santa, or indeed financial directors, will have to consider."

Ian Kilpatrick, chairman, Wick Hill Group

"Many resellers active in security have bucked the trend and carried on growing during 2009.

"At the remote user level, there have been strong sales in encryption, two-factor authentication and end-point security.

"Inside the organisation, logging, active web content security, SIEM, and penetration testing have grown. And cost cutting has pushed up UTM and XTM appliance sales."

John Carter, managing director, DMSL

"It has certainly not been easy, but we have viewed every challenge that the downturn has presented us with as an opportunity. You have to keep trying to make something happen - eventually, it will.

"But Rome was not built in a day and when businesses are finding it tough, you can't expect them to come knocking on your door with a cheque book in their hands. You have to offer them something that they will value right now and look to build long-term relationships.

"Most important of all, you have to go out and get tell customers what you have to offer. We need to work together as a channel more than ever now to make sure we communicate the value that we deliver to the market."

Julian McBride, UK manager, TippingPoint

"Despite a rather gloomy outlook for the economy this year, many organisations have continued to invest in key aspects of IT such as security, which is fundamental to business continuity, or they have been driven by compliance. With many budgets being squeezed or deferred, the drive to reduce cost of ownership has been the overriding factor in many decisions.

"Any technology vendor's solution that can help to reduce costs without compromising infrastructure, business, or regulatory compliance, has continued to succeed in a very difficult market. As global threats increase in breadth and complexity, vendors who keep pace and reduce the security gap' (the difference between available budget and increased cost associated with increased threats) will continue to do well."

Mitchell Feldman, sales and marketing director, The Internet Group

"Despite the buzz surrounding cloud computing in 2009, it does not seem to be impacting the 'M' level of the SME. Small businesses understand and appreciate the cost saving benefits and large companies have the necessary skills and expertise to deploy it properly. However, medium-sized businesses like the comfort factor of keeping services in-house and controlling IT themselves.

"Another big story of 2009 has been how to ride the recession, with companies reviewing the IT function and cutting out any fat to ensure it is running as efficiently as possible in times of financial uncertainty. As part of this review, companies have been revisiting disaster recovery plans, as any downtime in a recession will hurt a business even more.

"Staff productivity has also been in the spotlight, with more policies such as web filtering and e-mail usage enforced upon staff to improve efficiency.
"Companies have also been less tolerant of poor service from IT providers, with more contracts up for tender than we have seen in the past five years."

Andy Walsky, vice-president of EMEA sales and marketing, Overland Storage

"IDC recently suggested that the digital universe will grow 60% a year to almost two zettabytes by 2011. There is an urgent and growing realisation that tape, which for most archiving applications handily beats disk storage in terms of price and performance, will continue to play a central role for many of these firms.

"With most of the UK economy still under financial pressure, many IT decisions will continue to be driven by cost, ensuring that tape remains an integral part of any firm's data archiving strategy. The fact is, tape remains an integral part of the archival strategy for most UK businesses of all sizes.

"We know that UK firms want to streamline their backup and recovery strategy and cut the administrative costs required to manage it. They want affordable, easy-to-use data protection solutions that automate the back-up and recovery process and reduce the risk of business interruptions."

Ian Masters, UK sales and marketing director, Double-Take Software

"Many in the channel have survived the lows of 2009 and are more operationally efficient than they were at the beginning of the year, having learnt how to tighten their belts and become more focused. This is a good exercise to go through once in a while.

"I don't think we can expect to see much recovery in Q1, but certainly beyond that the green shoots are there, and we hope for a much more prosperous year in 2010.

"So where are the big opportunities going to be found? The cloud and desktop virtualisation will certainly be two areas to keep your eye on."

Mark Power, security specialist, Net-Ctrl

"2009 has finally brought us the ratification of the 11n wireless networking standard, which has sparked a drop in pricing that is already making solutions more competitive with their 11g predecessors.

"The challenge facing the channel as it looks towards 2010 will be how best to harness technology to open up lucrative new markets."

Robert Billington, director of sales EMEA, ScriptLogic

"2009 has been the most challenging year since 2001, but in many ways it is a necessary, if painful, cycle. It means that we have to review our business models, look at where we can focus and where we can offer more to our customer, whether that be a reseller or an end-user.

"Possibly the most significant part of this cycle is the challenge on credit that many resellers will have. This means that it is more important to get every percentage point of margin out of every pound spent."

Yolanta Gill, managing director, European Electronique

"2009 has been a very tough year for companies specialising in delivering ICT to education. Competition has increased and funding for education projects has been delayed. Furthermore, the tendering process has changed; the time between the tender being awarded and the work commencing has lengthened, delaying any return on costs.

"Margins have been driven down further as budget cuts have meant schools seek the best offers and cheapest hardware supplier, whether or not they have any technical expertise. Budgets have been tightened even further by complicated funding mechanisms and changes in capital funding, which will have a knock on effect on the IT reseller.

"To overcome some of the current difficulties IT resellers should review the way they work to ensure they are as efficient and streamlined as possible. Know your marketplace, understand your client's needs and adapt to changing market demands. With tight budgets and the threat of further cuts in the public sector, price is a major factor, as well as being able to offer advice on ways to save money."

Nick Garlick, managing director, Nebulas Solutions Group

"2009 combined a major recession and the rapid emergence of Web 2.0. These two events caused a massive shift in the IT landscape, with companies striving to do more with less resource. Consolidation meant that new businesses were emerging more quickly than ever. This has left large organisations struggling to keep pace with more agile, smaller competitors.

"2010 will see large vendors acquiring small specialists for their skills, knowledge and market share. The channel will take on a great role as integrator for IT infrastructures, which have become so complex that a single vendor cannot meet all requirements."

Andy Hardy, managing director of international sales, Compellent

"UK companies might be putting IT spending on hold so they can weather the economic downturn, but the business-critical data that they rely on to remain competitive continues to grow unabated.

"On top of this, the practical ability for most companies to host more equipment to store and manage more data is being severely impacted by the expectation that many UK datacentres are rapidly running out of space and power.

"So, while UK firms need to grow their storage capacity, they lack the budget, physical space and energy supplies to do this. It is the perfect storage storm.
"For the budget-challenged IT manager, the need to do more with less has become a sudden and harsh reality. Storage efficiency is being cited as one of the biggest drivers for companies determining their storage spend this year and beyond."

Robert Furnivall, head of channel, SAP UK

"The past year has been a difficult one for everyone, and the channel is no exception. Increased pressure on budgets and customers looking for greater value means it is no surprise that the year has been tough.

"However, it has not been all gloom and doom. In the past few months SAP has seen a significant increase in partners generating and registering new opportunities. Many of these partners are now seeing that the investment they have made in tailored solutions is greatly helping their prospects and puts them in a strong position when customer spending increases.

"The year ahead will bring new and emerging areas of opportunity for SAP channel partners in terms of even greater interest in BI, increased importance of risk and sustainability management, and the need for more modular solutions. With this momentum continuing to build and new prospects emerging, things are looking up for 2010."

Leon Mangan, sales director, indirect channel, Siemens Enterprise Communications

"Businesses have accepted the reality of post-downturn trading conditions, with pressure for IT to deliver enhanced productivity, and they are looking to invest in communications solutions to enable their customers to gain competitive advantage.

"Recovery in PBX systems volumes back to pre-2008-09 levels is possible, but with a change in the technology base to deliver unified communication and collaboration. These will be IP-based, so recovery here could also bring a further shift from TDM platforms to IP platforms.

"In addition, the longer-term prospect of cloud computing services could provide more opportunities as SMEs seek to get benefit from the applications they can provide with the flexibility which hosted solutions deliver - assuming concerns over cloud data security and integrity can be resolved. With the general election in mind, the Siemens manifesto would include more government investment in SMEs - particularly support for training initiatives."

Mike Bienvenu, technical director, Softek

"2009 has been the year of the data leak, with countless high-profile breaches reported in the media and the year rounded off by what was the biggest phone customer data breach ever and the Information Commissioner's Office calling for custodial sentences for serious breaches of the data protection law.

"In addition to this, CoCo compliance has bamboozled many customers. Local government agencies have been calling us in their hundreds asking what they need to do to be compliant and, in particular, questioning what they need to do about document and e-mail classification.

"Along with two-factor authentication, around 50% of our business this year has been related to CoCo compliance and this has been very lucrative for the channel."

Gary Newbold, director for UK & Ireland, Extreme Networks

"There is no denying it has been an interesting year for the channel; we have had the recession, various company overhauls and calls for greener technologies. Businesses are demanding future-proofed networking technologies, and vendors have been challenged to provide equipment that will meet 21st century requirements while lowering energy consumption, all at favourable price points.

"Despite the downturn, organisations are still willing to invest in key networking products, as they know that the total cost of ownership of high-end products greatly outweighs those of a cheaper design in terms of scalability and maintenance. The channel has also realised the considerable cost and efficiency benefits to be had in being able to offer the market a highly desirable alternative to the usual choice of vendors."

Aad Dekkers, director, SNIA Europe

"2009 was an interesting year in terms of year-on-year revenue growth, where some people said "flat is the new up" and companies were reporting sequential quarterly growth instead, with pleasure, if they could.

"All technologies that help reduce costs where hot: consolidation, virtualisation, deduplication and moving to service in the cloud (moving capex to opex).
"More companies have been confronted with the impact of improper virtualisation deployments and are looking for valuable solutions from the experts in the channel."

Phil Jones, founder and CTO, Shoden Data Systems UK

"Today we expect simple, fast and secure access to data. But in 2009 everyone was still having to cut costs and therefore we saw great interest in new business models such as cloud computing and any service-based application delivery method.

"If mega-centres successfully started outsourcing applications this year, then the whole model of commercial IT can change, and this is a big shift for the channel. Expensive in-house resources have started to turn into IT utility bills. 2009 was a year of change for the IT industry and potentially the start of a new IT era."

David Blackman, general manager Northern Europe, Acronis

"Data growth in small and large companies alike continued to increase rapidly in 2009. According to IDC research, the amount of digital data created and stored worldwide has increased by 3,000% in just three years. Combine this with the economic crisis and it is clear to see why deduplication was the hottest data storage topic of 2009 for the channel.

"While this technology has traditionally been reserved for large organisations due to its high cost, as the technology has matured it has become more affordable. With this comes an opportunity for resellers who sell to SMBs and the mid market to add a new offering to their portfolio.

"The technology's ability to reduce storage space requirements is good news for end users who are increasingly under pressure to cut costs. In 2010, we predict that this technology will continue to drive revenue for the channel."

Matt Garman, director, dhc

"Cloud computing is not quite there yet; there is not as much appetite for it as the hype might suggest. However, it will feature more heavily in 2010, supported by more consistent delivery of broadband speeds.

"Companies may be down on where they were last year, but they are conscious of the need to invest in technology to help them out of recession and into a phase of growth.

"Larger deals/contracts are already appearing due to more structured buying processes. Owner/managed businesses have not got their confidence back completely to make a significant investment, but there is optimism that it will return in early 2010."

David Whitton, Northern Europe sales manager, Kodak Document Imaging

"The year has been characterised by cash conservation as companies have delayed buying IT and adopted a wait and see approach to ascertain how the recession will affect them.

"The outlook for 2010 is far more positive. We have already got more orders for high-end scanners than we sold in the whole of 2009. And 2010 will be the year when companies proactively seek to reduce the costs of doing business, and given document imaging is a cost reduction technology, we are well placed."

Simon Morris, research and development director, Pentura

"Apps have been a very popular technology for 2009. From a security point of view, application firewalling is proving to very important as businesses need to be able to control what employees are doing within applications such as Facebook and Skype - they could be file sharing and instant messaging other users who might not be trustworthy.

"With many businesses only having basic application control, allowing employees to access feature-rich websites can potentially put businesses at risk."

Neil Robertson, CEO, Compleat Software

"2009 was a year when organisations stopped thinking growth and focused on savings. The outlook for 2010 will be similar, as finance directors promote conservative budgets and non-essential spend is unlikely to get funding. The financial squeeze will continue, reflected by vigorous competition - a buyer's market.

"But there are always winners in tough times. Spend control software is enjoying explosive growth as businesses invest to take total control over the corporate spending and make significant savings as a result. It is the right product at the right time for both customers and the channel partners that offer it."

Michel Robert, managing director, Claranet

"Many businesses had a tough start to the year, focusing solely on saving money, which for the channel resulted in pressure on prices and the cancellation of some services. This gradually changed, however, with confidence and an appreciation of the benefits of outsourcing returning. We have particularly felt this recently, with customers making decisions to proceed with projects and wanting everything delivered now.

"Another recent trend that we expect to see continue in 2010 is a shift in the services that businesses want the channel to provide. Businesses are placing greater value on the outsourcing of daily IT management tasks, especially hosting, as a way to cut costs and improve service. Our channel partners are certainly capitalising on this opportunity."

Nick Preston, sales director, CCI Distribution

"Value-added offerings have been key to business survival in 2009. With the recession hitting IT spend hard, organisations have looked for solutions that offer maximum business value at minimal cost - a challenge that has forced the channel to up its game, squeezing margins from all angles in order to compete and deliver.

"2009 has also been a particularly mixed year for the storage sector. Limited resources have seen businesses utilise their existing storage devices and resist the need to upgrade to more advanced solutions. However, peripherals and optical devices, such as Blu-ray and DVD-Roms, have proved to be a practical stopgap and a lucrative revenue stream for retailers battling the economic downturn."

Andrew Brewerton, technical director EMEA, BakBone

"2009 has been marked by the appearance and development of several new technologies, most of them answering the call for reduced IT acquisition and maintenance costs.

"From cloud computing and data deduplication to data archiving, the focus has been on making the datacentre more cost-effective while preserving performance, scalability and security.

"For the channel, 2009 has been a time of change. This has been good for some and bad for others. Those who learnt from this year will be best positioned to reap the rewards in the next 12 months and beyond."

Patrik Runald, senior research manager, Websense Security Labs

"For me, 2009 was a year of attention-grabbing online attacks, kicking off with Conficker, one of the largest worm attacks ever seen, which ate into social networks across the globe. After months of speculation about what the worm might do, the hype culminated on 1 April when Conficker activated part of its payload - flexing its muscles but crucially pulling its punch.

"Data breaches also played a pivotal role in the security landscape this year, with events like the Heartland breach, where 90 million credit and debit card details were stolen.

"2009 was also the year when cyber criminals took search engine optimisation to a whole new level. As world news stories broke (such as Michael Jackson's death, the launch of Google Wave and Tiger Woods' car accident), search engine results were poisoned within hours, leading users to malicious links and fake products."

Robert May, managing director, ramsac

"Everyone predicted 2009 would be tough, but ramsac found it to be a rewarding year. Winning new business has been more challenging as clients have become more careful with their spend. However, we have found there is plenty of business for those who offer value for money.

"The downturn has cleared the market of less competitive companies and the business we have won has come from competitors who failed to offer return on investment.

"A demand for unified communications has highlighted that our clients also want to become more efficient in the way they work."

Stein Surlien, senior vice-president, alliances and channels, Oracle EMEA

"This year has been an extremely exciting one for the Oracle PartnerNetwork (OPN). We launched OPN Specialized - a significant evolution of the Oracle PartnerNetwork.

"OPN Specialized is designed to enable partners to demonstrate their product and industry expertise and have this recognised by Oracle.

"When we recognise partners that have invested in the Oracle portfolio and have real expertise, we can provide more opportunity for them with our joint customers. Oracle sales reps will be more easily able to identify qualified partners who they can trust, have the right expertise in specific areas and can effectively engage with customers. In a real sense, this means we will be able to better match the right partners with real business opportunities."

John Appleby, chairman, Saaspoint

"The level of CIO interest indicates that cloud computing has finally come of age. This is a marked difference over previous years, when cloud/SaaS opportunities arose for specific applications, usually led by a senior user' executive. CIOs are now looking at the cloud as a means to innovate within highly constrained budgets.

"The tendency is still towards off-the-shelf solutions - marketing, e-mail, etc. But innovation through the collaborative nature of the cloud is starting to mature with software such as Google Docs.

"The beachhead has been made by the likes of Salesforce.com, but this will be quickly followed by the emergence of more utility-based companies with open platforms."

Marcus Harvey, channel sales director, Lexmark

"2009 has been a defining year for Lexmark. Tough, yes; a challenge, most definitely, but also a time where we have been able to build on our experience, reposition our products, change the way we sell and focus on the right channels and develop our partner relationships.

"Product innovation thrived and included the launch of three web-enabled touch-screen devices which saw, for the first time, synergies between our laser and inkjet offerings.

"2009 also saw the expansion of our onsite sales team, who are dedicated to managing relationships with our channel partners. By improving our understanding of our resellers' business goals, we hope to build strong relationships and provide innovative solutions which will deliver tangible benefits long after the economy has recovered.

"The year has not been without its struggles, but we are confident that the investments we have made in our channel throughout the year - both tangible and intangible - will see us retain, and further build, our channel in 2010."

Stephen Watson, channel co-marketing manager UK and Ireland, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Business

"Many partners and customers have taken the opportunity to delay purchases until the end of the recession is in sight, thus cutting costs immediately, but investing correctly. This has reduced the total cost of ownership and has brought the return on investment that they need to recover any investments made in a short space of time.

"HP has been there all the way to help do just that. However, any delayed purchases are now more necessary than at the outset and HP has the right set of products to meet the challenges that they have to update and bring the latest technology to bear on the situation that we have now.

"I believe customers and partners alike are in a stronger position to climb out of the problem times and grow as the market grows."

Bob Dalton, managing director, Intact Integrated Services

"While the recession has clearly impacted the channel during 2009, we have found that there is still strong demand for managed services that can help organisations reduce risk and protect their cost base.

"As a partner-focused services company, we have also had to become more innovative in how we present our services. That has meant spending a lot of time helping our customers target sales opportunities that we can then jointly address.

"This has also been a year for broadening horizons, and we have concentrated on a number of international markets - including Singapore - which have been much quicker to recover than the UK."

Paul Lawton, managing director, Opal

"It has been a challenging year for the channel, but it was not without its highlights. We have seen 12 months of heavy acquisition as companies struggle to grow organically, and as more put themselves up for sale as they become more realistic about market values and concern over how the recession will play out. This is matched by a lively, entrepreneurial climate as a lot of forced' start-ups enter the telco arena, due to the proliferation of ex-corporate telco employees ­setting up as consultants, channel partners and suppliers.

"The need for cost reduction in the market has had its benefits; namely driving key decision making in telecoms, such as the significant TDM to IP moves, businesses buying minute bundles, supplier consolidation and shorter contract terms.

Demand for improved bandwidth and greater interest in NGN, along with the provision of ADSL2+, Annexe M and Ethernet has also been a key ongoing trend, as businesses wake up to the silent revolution presented by new high-speed, highly resilient services.

"It has also been a year of some disappointment. BT's roll out of its 21st Century Network has fallen somewhat flat after its lively promises in the early stages."

Tamar Brooks, channel sales director, UK and Ireland, CA

"Conditions in 2009 have been a challenge, with many end-users extending buying cycles and more cautious to commit. However, with a strong focus on delivering an enhanced partner programme, CA has seen sustained growth in the channel business quarter-on-quarter this year.

"Vendor partner programmes have stimulated success in the channel as they provide the structure and support required to create a committed partnership that can enable innovative solutions to be brought to market.

"In the future, the interest in on-demand software will continue, with virtualisation, automation and green strategies becoming major priorities for IT users and the channel."

Ellie Dyke, head of business development EMEA, Serif

"In 2009, we saw software budgets shrinking and technology pounds becoming increasingly hard to find, making it a really tough sell for the channel. We realised that bells and whistles no longer sell and that organisations are focused on painkillers, as opposed to vitamins', so the essentials not the nice-to-haves.

"Resellers, distributors and vendors need to be very clear about what pain' they are addressing before they go in with the big sell - if they can do that and have a solution to relieve the pain, there will be interest."

Bill Trim, corporate sales director, Kaspersky Lab UK

"The recession may be viewed as a threat or an opportunity. A potential threat is that sales organisations fall into the trap of:

  • Chasing more opportunities rather than focusing on relationships and realistic deals
  • Negotiating rather than selling value
  • Selling on price not safety.

"However, the channel has seized the opportunity to grow its Kaspersky business by focusing on realistic opportunities, and articulating the value of risk avoidance."

Keith Hoult, sales director for Northern Europe, Allied Telesis

"End-users, distributors, channel partners and vendors have all been seeking to maximise sales opportunities and optimise their resources in 2009.

"With a continued bullish look to 2010, with the switching off of analogue TV creating investment opportunities in markets such as social housing, the push for next generation broadband roll-outs, FTTH becoming a reality and the push of major projects such as the Olympics, Allied Telesis is in a good position for an excellent 2010."

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