Unless you travel the back channels of enterprise IT, chances are good you never heard of companies such as Ingram Micro or Tech Data. And yet both of them, along with other distributors such as Avnet, Synnex and Arrow Electronics, may soon become major forces influencing how cloud computing services are delivered in the enterprise.
Ingram Micro and Tech Data are multi-billion entities that handle much of the financing of deals for small to medium-sized IT services companies, while providing shipping and receiving services for most of the system and software vendors that dominate enterprise computing.
Obviously, cloud computing is a potential threat to these companies because in most instances, not as much hardware or software needs to be shipped as more IT services are concentrated in the hands of fewer cloud computing providers.
And yet, thousands of small to medium-sized businesses rely on their local IT services firm to guide their IT strategies, which in many cases results in the IT services firm acting as an external IT department that makes decisions on behalf of those customers. Those IT services firms are obviously eager to leverage the power of cloud computing to deliver IT services to their customers more cost effectively.
This accounts for why Ingram Micro this week launched Cloud Conduit, a series of services through which Ingram is integrating various cloud computing platforms and applications that will all be delivered via its IT services customers. According to Jason Beal, director of service sales for Ingram Micro in North America, the idea is to let IT services companies mix and match applications and cloud computing providers to create their own custom cloud computing platforms without having to invest a lot of capital. Vendors joining the Ingram Cloud Conduit program include Amazon, Rackspace and Salesforce.com.
In effect, this service has the potential to make Ingram Micro a cloud computing power broker. It's unclear just how many IT services firms will see this service as being a more efficient route to delivering cloud computing versus establishing their own direct relationships with key cloud computing vendors. But more often than not, a fair number of the IT services firms tend to favor the path of least resistance when it comes to anything new, so chances are many will follow the lead of their distributors.
Should all this come to pass, companies such as Ingram Micro, which already exercise a fair amount of influence over what products and services local IT services firms decide to promote, will extend that influence to the cloud.
But at the same time, local IT services firms could just as easily build their own clouds. So the real question going forward is just how relevant can classic IT distribution companies be in the new age of cloud computing?