D&H Distributing is cautiously upbeat about the channel's future despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“While news about COVID-19’s impact among the SMB market remains a concern, we at D&H remain optimistic,” says Co-President Dan Schwab (pictured).
Schwab and fellow Co-President Michael Schwab spoke during a threadcast virtual conference this week on innovation and opportunity in the wake of COVID-19's impact. The overriding message from D&H executives, vendors, and analysts is that despite the double-pronged challenge of the economic downturn and public health crisis, there is opportunity for channel pros serving SMBs, K-12, the public sector, and other markets.
The event included a technical training session on D&H Cloud; a panel discussion on lessons learned from the pandemic; technical tracks on Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, Intel Optane Technology, and Cisco. (Cisco’s flagship Webex Collaboration platform, its Umbrella layered security solutions, and its Stealthwatch cloud-based network visibility and threat detection solutions were added to the D&H Cloud Marketplace earlier this month.) Solutions panels discussed security, networking and remote access; remote IT; and the new/next normal.
“The good news is SMBs are the direct recipients of government stimulus to help offset some of their costs and challenges,” Dan Schwab said, adding that many will now receive renewed approaches from end users about improving their technologies, stabilizing their businesses, and consuming virtual and digital solutions, particularly around telemedicine and online learning. However, he added, “Tough economic times clearly bring investment decisions into sharp focus and may create some low investment levels in the short term.”
Michael Schwab said D&H feels there will be “very sizable opportunities” for SMBs, K-12, public sector, and additional verticals in the coming quarters. As businesses are starting to return to work, he added, “there is an immense focus on upgrading their current environment and capabilities to reduce downtime if COVID or another similar issue were to reoccur.”
He expects to see investments in infrastructure and endpoints, networking software, SaaS, and security. “This includes needs for secure and capable networks in the home environment. … Most SMBs will rethink their security strategy and engage their trusted adviser to either enhance or develop and deploy a cybersecurity and disaster recovery strategy.” And he added, business decision makers will move aggressively toward a mobile solution strategy.
Finally, as the nation moves through phased approaches to reopening, Michael Schwab said that in the new or next normal, “cloud and security will remain top-of-mind solutions.”
Another positive trend several vendors noted is the recovery of the supply chain. “We are all focused on supply, and I can tell you, that while [the] HP supply chain is still recovering, we are now back to full capacity and are implementing plans to create flexibility in our manufacturing footprint,” said Scott Lannum, vice president and general manager, North America channels, HP Inc. “We expect things to remain fluid over the next few months as the timing and the shape of the economic recovery is highly unpredictable, and we're already preparing for multiple scenarios.”
Jarrod Sousa, ambassador to the channel for Poly, echoed that. “The supply chain definitely got constrained there for a little bit and we saw a huge surge in demand for our products that I don't think we've ever experienced before in the past.” Demand as businesses transition from the office to home created industry-wide backlogs, he said. “The good news is the supply chain has opened up and things are becoming available again. We're shipping products and, we've come out with a couple of new products in the past couple months.”
For Intel’s part, David Allen, director of platform and distribution sales for the U.S., told attendees that supply is improving for desktop parts, which has been an issue for the last few years, and the company has invested more in factory capacity. “So on 9th Gen and 10th Gen parts, you'll continue to see availability improve as we go forward. And as we get into the fourth quarter of 2020, I feel very, very strongly that we'll be able to meet market demands for the vast majority of these CPUs and other parts such as NUC, server CPU, and our storage parts have all gotten better. You'll still find spot shortages here and there, but for the most part, our overall supply picture is much better here in 2020 than it was in [the] previous year.”
Another theme discussed In a panel on the new/next normal was how working styles have changed. “People being distant and not having that interpersonal interaction on a daily basis is driving them to be more open to turning on the cameras,” said Sousa. “And people have just become more accepting if a kid walks in a room during a conference call. So I think people are just a little bit more comfortable, a bit more relaxed, and more accepting of what goes on in a home work environment.”
The scramble to set up those work-from-home environments also shined a light on the need to keep technology current, said Stephen Miller, brand ambassador for Lenovo. “Now our IT buyers have to realize—let me say this the right way—they can't go cheap and focus on price to take away features because, you know, those features are there for a very good reason.”
While business as usual is forever changed, Intel’s Allen harkened the company’s founder Andy Grove as he summed up the challenge for the channel. “[Grove] said bad companies are destroyed by crises, good companies survive them, but great companies are proved by them. But we have the opportunity here to be great companies together.”
Image: Courtesy of D&H