Vitamin Y: ASCII Chicago


The 40-year-old ASCII organization provides support for 2000 SMB VAR members via sessions across the US. InsightaaS was invited to “pinch hit” for our partners at Techaisle, delivering a keynote on “SMB Trends: Address a market in transformation”.

In all, there were about 120 attendees. Presenting vendors included HP, McAfee/Intel, Datto, Comcast, LogMeIn, GFI Max, JetStream, Schneider APC, StorageCraft, AVG, and RapidFire.

Three keYs:

  • There is a cloud ‘gold rush’ underway in the channel. Vendors of many different types of products and services are trying to position themselves as critical elements of a holistic cloud strategy. Just from the list above, we see: endpoint and server products, security, application management, communication services, remote management enablement technologies, and business continuity technologies. No VAR will be able to support all products, or even all product categories; vendors are trying to ensure that they are visible before VAR approaches become finalized.
  • Management of BYOA will join management of BYOD as a key issue. The BYOD trend largely omitted the traditional VAR channel, as smartphones (nearly all of them), phablets (ditto) and tablets (a sizable proportion) were sold via telco or retail channels, rather than through the VARs who depended on PC-attached services for essential margin. It’s clear that the VARs are looking to regain a prominent position in the client device space. Many are already focused on BYOD security and management. There appears to be a growing trend towards promoting BYOA (application) as well, as VARs look to create corporate “app stores” for their SMB clients. In brief, the VARs are looking to provide a set of vetted apps that they are able to support, secure and integrate via an online portal, providing users within their client companies with a degree of application choice, and the owners/managers of those companies with some assurance that the technologies underpinning their mobility strategies are appropriately managed.
  • VAR leaders are unclear about the best path to the future, and are looking for guidance from multiple sources. Events like ASCII provide them with a chance to learn from thought leaders (like InsightaaS and Techaisle), from vendors, and from each other. If the behaviour observed in Chicago is any measure, VAR leaders are availing themselves of all three options, as they look to build a path forward into a hybrid future in which their traditional functions — sourcing, deploying, managing, integrating and securing business technologies for SMBs — are extended beyond their clients’ premises to include resources based in the cloud, and users tethered only to their handheld devices.

Bottom line:

There are actually twin bottom lines here, depending on your position in the industry. If you are in the channel, it’s time to build a cloud portfolio and begin placing your chips on the table — configuring the wealth of options into a coherent cloud approach that is relevant to your customers. If you are one of those customers — an SMB IT leader or owner/manager — it is time to hold your suppliers accountable for presenting a well-thought-out plan for migrating workloads to the cloud. This plan should include staging across workloads, timeframes and milestones, options and benefits/points of exposure, and an indication of which products (and why) the supplier will use to best position you for success.


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