2020 has been a year of unpredictability for IT businesses marked by stalled spending in key solution categories due to economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Darren Harbaugh, however, is in the enviable position of selling one of the few technologies experiencing faster, rather than slower, growth this year: cloud computing.
“Cloud has helped alleviate the peaks and the valleys of inconsistent businesses of old,” says Harbaugh, who is senior vice president in charge of SYNNEX’s Stellr group, which is responsible for cloud partnerships and solutions.
Harbaugh, who spoke with ChannelPro after the distributor’s STELLRCon Invitational conference this week, also oversees two other, closely related, segments performing strongly this year, mobility and the Internet of Things. STELLRCon served as the launching pad for a new program called the 5G Acceleration Initiative aimed at helping partners cash in on a technology relevant to both those markets and poised for breakout growth.
Indeed, after years of anticipation and hype, 5G is finally on the cusp of going mainstream. Gartner expects spending on 5G network infrastructure alone to jump 96% this year to more than $8.1 billion.
Meanwhile, leading carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon have 5G networks up and running, Harbaugh notes, and manufacturers like Cradlepoint, Samsung, and LG are steadily introducing 5G-ready hardware. “We’ve already begun to build out the catalog and the playbook, and are updating partners along the way as more certified devices across the different OEMs become available,” Harbaugh says. “The momentum and the interest are significant.”
The 5G Acceleration Initiative is designed to ready partners for widespread adoption of 5G-based solutions that’s now just over the horizon. “There’s a pathway to get there. It’s not sort of a light switch moment,” Harbaugh says.
The initiative will guide solution providers down that path in part by educating them about 5G-certified software, hardware, and services as well as 5G-enabled opportunities in areas like wayfinding, augmented and virtual reality, workforce collaboration, and smart shopping. The program will also help members plan and build complete 5G practices.
“We’ve got a deep bench of everything from business development to tactical engineering resources to help partners train and certify along the way as their businesses and their customers’ businesses are ready,” Harbaugh says.
Separately, SYNNEX is investing heavily in efforts to coach cloud software resellers on selling cloud services as well. “This last year, we’ve doubled my technical engineering staff to help augment and/or enable partners,” Harbaugh says. “On sort of the front end is a team that helps partners build up new practices or extend their current practices.”
Members of that team can both teach partners to deliver their own services or guide them to outsourced services from SYNNEX itself and others. “We’ve continued to build out both direct engineering services and partnering through third parties to help compliment and sort of wrap around what they currently offer,” Harbaugh says.
Enhancing the Stellr cloud marketplace is another ongoing priority. “We’re continuing to make it a cleaner, friendlier, faster user experience,” Harbaugh says.
SYNNEX has been expanding the platform’s functionality as well. Partners gained the ability to bundle their own service offerings into cloud solutions through the marketplace early this year, and a multi-tiered cloud management tool is now available too.
Harbaugh calls himself “cautiously optimistic” about the next few months despite continued economic volatility and rising COVID-19 infection rates. He’s even more enthusiastic about the year ahead.
I’m very bullish on 2021,” he says. “It’s going to be another strong year.”