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March 5, 2013 |

Tech Data: Acclimating Partners to the Cloud

Distributor Tech Data’s TDCloud director Bharath Natarajan offers an inside look at his company’s cloud-related efforts.

Less than two years after the launch of TDCloud, distributor Tech Data’s cloud resource for partners, the initiative has blossomed into a full-fledged business unit.

From the TDCloud Partner Summit in Tampa, Fla. last month, TDCloud director Bharath Natarajan took some time to provide ChannelPro-SMB with an exclusive interview. He shared his insights into the growth of his operation as well as the general cloud-related trends in the channel.

Why is TDCloud so important?
There’s a general trend for most resellers to want to be MSP-like, which means they have to change the philosophy around the product and focus more on tying the solution to the end user.

I probably said this on stage, but there is a real need by an end user. To me, though, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an on-premise solution or cloud solution; the only thing that really matters is that you talk about the solution and consider all options.

Based on bandwidth capabilities of the network or the quality of service, an SMB could end up with an on-premise solution. I have no problem with that. But we have to consider the potential opportunity of cloud – that’s what our take is.

So, we’ve got a team of people here that can get on the phone at any point in time for any VAR to help answer these questions. We can help VARs understand the options available to them and point out a solution for that need.

How big is TD Cloud?
It’s about 25 employees, plus or minus, but we’ve got over 2,000 partners related to cloud, selling cloud.

What has the conversation been like with attendees here at the event?
A lot of what we’re doing at this event [TDCloud Partner Summit] is taking about the lessons that MSPs have shared. We’re bringing those to classic VARs, and we’re sharing them as case studies. We’re saying, “Here’s what you need to do around your products.” We’re saying, “Product revenue on its own, going forward, probably isn’t going to be sustainable.”

Where do most of your partners stand in terms of cloud expertise?
The level of sophistication of VARs is completely diverse. There are guys out there that can teach us about what it means to be an MSP, and there are classic resellers out there that need some guidance in becoming an MSP, trying to sell cloud.

What cloud-related trends are you noticing right now?
There are certain verticals within the cloud space that are hot right now: the disaster recovery and email, especially. But that’s continuously changing. EMR is coming down the pike. Big data is coming down the pike.

So, we have to continuously evolve and bring on the right products, the right mix of products. We’ll be focusing hard on bringing in a lot more of our core vendor products onto it.

You recently announced some core vendor participants, right?
Yes, we released some press a few weeks ago. We’ve got Microsoft and Trend Micro now fully integrated with the solution store, which is an incredibly powerful piece. That means the big core vendors are starting to come to the table fully integrated and providing the value that we want them to. That journey will continue this year.

What else does TD Cloud have planned for 2013?
We also have a lot of training. We have activities planned all this fiscal year. We have webinars and a whole bunch of different training events to get VARs up to speed on cloud products. Then, we also have a lot of marketing going around, trying to get VARs enabled to share the stories with their clients, to help them see cloud as being a natural evolution of IT.

Those are some of the things that TD Cloud is trying to do. The other key part is obviously that we’re trying to give VARs bundles, an easy way to sell solutions.

You mentioned that TDCloud has developed a ‘Cloud Playbook.’ What does this playbook offer partners?
Our playbook breaks down certain aspects of the cloud into four simple pieces:

  1. Obviously, the first is ensuring that all our technology enablers, our infrastructure, are able to handle all the cloud-related transactions.
  2. The second is making sure there is a team that’s trained, staffed, and compensated based on cloud.
  3. The third is making sure there’s a portfolio of options and products specific to the categories being focused on, vetted to make sure the solutions are strong and will be compatible with the products that we’re offering.
  4. The final piece, which is what we’re gong to spend a lot of time on this coming financial year, is customer enablement.

How does this relate to your concept of the ‘Three Es’?
We’re spending a lot of time around the three Es: enablement, education, and execution. We want to make sure our platform is continuously improving and better. We want to make sure we continuously grow our vendor portfolio. It doesn’t matter how good all those things are if your customer is not ready to buy, right?

So, fundamentally, this is the start to a journey for us. That’s why we’ve announced the ‘Three Es.’ We want to spend the next few quarters very, very specifically focused on how we can bring a lot more of our customer base in to embrace cloud and cloud products while continuing to focus on getting the right solutions.

You’ve spent a lot time at this event soliciting feedback. Tell us about that.

For us to be all things to everybody is difficult. We need to figure out normalized solutions. We need to provide help to each different type of diverse player within our customer group.

So I want to know from customers what they want us to do. We’re trying to figure this out so we can be the best partner. And so we want our partners to tell us exactly what they want so we can cater to that need.

What’s the focus of TDCloud right now?
One: Focus on giving partners the right products and the right mix of products, both in the core space as well as in the emerging space. Two: Focus on enabling our partners to sell cloud products, whether it comes down to technology or whether it comes to education.

What’s your ultimate goal?
I want to be the best distribution partner we possibly can be to our partners. And whatever that takes, we’ll do it.

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