Current networking technologies are being pushed to their performance boundaries reveals a survey conducted by the Weston Group in association with Brocade. Members of the Middle East IT channel who responded to the survey were split, almost evenly, between Ethernet Fabrics and Clustering Network solutions as the way forward for data centers while only a fraction (2.13%) believe classical Ethernet is still up to the task.
When questioned about the factors driving the complexity of data centres and the need for better networking technologies, respondents listed server virtualization, consolidation and the cloud as top three reasons in that order.
“We believe the IT channel, which is uniquely positioned, between the vendors supplying cutting-edge technologies and regional customers deploying them, is the best judge of the trends shaping the industry. We were surprised to find that most of these players still find technology roll-outs and updates to be slow despite the obvious need for network advancement,” said Prashant Naik, Divisional Manager, Unified Communications and Collaboration at Westcon Middle East.
While rapid technology advancements are being made in the data centre domain, the research found that only a quarter (25.53%) of end-users served by the channel organizations surveyed refresh their data centre networking infrastructures every 1 to 2 years, while the majority (48.94%) do so only once in 5 to 6 years.
Though 29.79% of respondents agreed that their customers’ tight budgets are a reason for these extended refresh cycles, it is the inability of the IT departments to convince their management of the ROI on network investments that is the prime reason, according to 48.94% of the channel respondents. It is no wonder then that nearly 60% of respondents selected pre-sales and POC assistance over better credit and payment terms (23.40%) and free/subsidised trainings and certifications (12.77%) as the most desired form of support that they would like to see from their vendors.
Recognizing this need, Brocade in association with Westcon in April this year launched a ‘Partner Academy’ in the region that will educate Brocade channel partners about the latest technology trends and product innovations, as well as provide unique insights to drive the sales pipeline and revenue growth. There will be two interactive Partner Academies held every quarter across different regions in the Middle East.
“Managing complexity is a big networking challenge for customers today. They are also trying to get to grips with new technology trends like virtualization, cloud, big data, SDN and NFV. Channel partners have an opportunity to position themselves as strategic advisors, identifying areas of the customer’s businesses, where innovative technologies can solve actual business problems and drive new business opportunities. The Partner Academy will provide partners with tools and resources that will enable them to become trusted advisors,” says Abdul Rehman Tariq Regional Channel Manager, MENA at Brocade.
Where will enterprises be spending?
In recent years, cyber security, in light of growing threats, has finally been established as its own entity and organizations no longer factor in security as an afterthought. In fact an overwhelming majority of respondents (89.36%) saw this as being one of the most likely areas of network infrastructure spending for Middle East businesses. Upgrading the core data centre network, network management, unified communications and WAN optimization were the other technologies that channel players expect IT budgets to be allocated to.
Focus areas for IT channel partners
According to the survey, network virtualization, cloud-optimized data centre networking solutions and BYOD/ mobility will be the three areas where channel players will look to strengthen their portfolios and skills. In the coming years, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) will move from being mere buzz words to an inevitable step forward for the industry. Over 55% of the channel feels that SDN and NFV roll-outs will be seen as early as within the next 1-2 years, while the rest agree that this will be the norm in less than 4 years. In fact, 64% of channel organizations have readied themselves, both in terms of technology and technical capabilities for this.
As expected, services are now a significant contributor to channel profits and represent between 26 to 50 percent of the total revenues for 46.81% of respondents. Low customer awareness of consultancy value and competition from vendors in the services domain remain the two biggest hurdles for the channel in offering value-added services, although it was encouraging to find that very few cited ‘lack of skilled resources’ as being a prohibiting factor.