Security, robotic process automation and managed cloud services are among the forces likely to drive demand in the COVID-19-influenced IT services market.
Several reports published this week paint a varied picture of the channel landscape. While the economic downturn stemming from the coronavirus pandemic is battering a range of businesses, research suggests continued demand in certain technology sectors and even an uptick in confidence in future business prospects.
Security tops buyer concerns
Security, a burgeoning market for services well before the COVID-19 crisis, continues to lead customer priorities. Further, it is a market that the outbreak could be propelling. The "2020 Global Managed Service Report" by NTT Ltd. cited security risk reduction as the most pressing challenge facing IT teams and the No. 1 reason for considering service providers.
Fifty-five percent of the report's 1,250 business and IT leader respondents said they hire services providers for their ability to help decrease security risks. NTT's report is primarily based on research from IDG.
"With the current COVID-19 crisis, we expect to see an increase in respondents citing security risks as a key challenge," according to NTT, a technology services provider based in London. "Organizations are struggling to defend themselves against a complex and worsening threat landscape."
Automation investment to increase
A Forrester Research report on COVID-19's effect on enterprise automation highlighted robotic process automation (RPA) as a technology on track to play a growing role in businesses looking to improve their resiliency.
"As we emerge from the crisis, firms will look to automation as a way to mitigate the risks that future crises pose to the supply and productivity of human workers," the Cambridge, Mass., market researcher noted. "They will invest more in cognitive capabilities and applied AI, industrial robotics, service robots, and robotic process automation."
RPA is already an important field for IT services firms. In addition to using RPA in-house to boost efficiency, service providers sell RPA services to external customers deploying the technology.
Managed cloud services see growing role
New research from market researcher Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), based in Milford, Mass., which was conducted in conjunction with cloud distributor Pax8, pointed to the centrality of managed cloud services as an MSP offering. The ESG report, "MSP Partner Landscape 2020," is based on 346 qualified web-based surveys and interviews with partners.
According to ESG, 86% of MSPs said they believe cloud-based managed services represent a fundamental change in how customers consume IT. ESG also found MSPs expect to have in 24 months "more employees dedicated to delivery services via the cloud, and fewer employees dedicated to delivering on-premises IT managed services and professional services on a project-by-project basis."
Although the report doesn't include COVID-19's influence on cloud uptake, anecdotal evidence indicates continued demand for cloud services.
Finally, a broader look at the channel, through the lens of channel program managers, reveals an increase in business confidence as the pandemic continues to unfold. A report from The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., found a 9-percentage point increase in the number of channel professionals expecting an improved business climate by the end of 2020.
In a March survey, the percentage of respondents anticipating improvement stood at 10%, but increased to 19% in an April survey. The 2112 Group polled 103 channel professionals.
The company's "Evolving Impact of COVID-19 on Vendor Channel Programs" report also forecasts a drop in channel event-related travel. Seventy-two percent of the respondents said they expect less business travel, even after than pandemic subsides. That said, 40% of respondents said they plan to return to live events.
Microsoft adds channel specializations for remote work
Microsoft has unveiled two new advanced specializations: Teamwork Deployment and Calling for Microsoft Teams.
Both are related to remote work, which has become a top area of demand for channel partners. The Teamwork Deployment specialization aims to help channel partners differentiate their services around Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Yammer. The Calling for Microsoft Teams specialization is geared toward partners focusing on modern voice offerings. Microsoft said customers need partners that can provide calling solutions involving network remediation, Office 365 service deployment, telephone number provisioning or porting, and device deployment.
Last month, Microsoft rolled out an Adoption and Change Management specialization that focuses on Teams, SharePoint and Yammer adoption.
Microsoft partners have been finding more business in Teams-related project planning and change management.
- Dell Technologies said it released its new Dell EMC PowerStore midrange storage system with various partner resources. Dell senior vice president of global channel data center sales Scott Millard said PowerStore qualifies for all existing Dell Technologies Partner Program incentives, such as competitive swaps and new business incentives. Virtual partner training activities for PowerStore are slated for this month, he added. Additionally, partners selling PowerStore can tap a range of financing options, including the Payment Flexibility Program, launched as part of Dell's COVID-19 relief The Payment Flexibility Program offers 0% interest for all Dell Technology infrastructure solutions, as well as deferment of customers' first payment for up to 180 days, according to Dell.
- Commvault's Metallic venture is partnering with Zones LLC, an IT solutions provider, in the data protection market. The companies will work together to provide SaaS-based data protection for Office 365 and the Azure cloud, using Metallic Office 365 Backup & Recovery.
- Acronis launched an integrated backup, disaster recovery and cybersecurity offering for MSPs. Acronis Cyber Protect lets MSPs offer endpoint management capabilities such as vulnerability assessments, URL filtering and patch management, according to the company.
- AllCloud, a cloud consulting firm based in Tel Aviv and San Francisco, said it gained AWS SaaS Competency status, which recognizes partners' ability to design and build SaaS and cloud-native offerings on AWS. Solution provider Persistent Systems, based in Pune, India, this week also said it achieved AWS SaaS Competency status.
- LogicMonitor, an IT infrastructure monitoring platform vendor that sells to MSPs, has added several companies to its partner roster. New partners include Sirius in the U.S., Atos in the United Kingdom, Blue Turtle in South Africa, AIS in Mexico and Aquion in Australia. Those companies join the LogicMonitor Partner Network, which includes MSPs, resellers, systems integrators and technology integrators.
- Exabeam, a security information and event management (SIEM) vendor, inked an exclusive distribution pact with Orca Technology in the Australia-New Zealand market. Orca Tech focuses on cybersecurity and analytics.
- ZeroNorth, a Boston company that provides risk-based vulnerability orchestration, appointed Chris Riley as senior vice president of sales. In the position, Riley will be responsible for strategic sales initiatives including channel programs. ZeroNorth works with integrators, resellers and referral partners, among other channel companies.
- Tanium, a unified endpoint management and security vendor, named Todd Palmer as its global head of partner sales. Palmer joined Tanium from Hitachi Vantara, where he was senior vice president of global strategic partners and alliances.
Additional reporting by Spencer Smith.
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