Intel’s outlook for the cloud part of its business in the months ahead, however, is cautious. “After five quarters of consecutive strong growth, we believe we’re going to start to see a digestion cycle as we move into the second half,” Holthaus said.
More broadly, COVID-19’s continued and unpredictable implications for both Intel and its partners makes forecasting results in any market difficult, according to Todd Garrigues, director of partner sales programs at Intel.
“There’s a little bit less uncertainty today from what the partners tell us than there was in the first half of the year, but it’s still real, it’s still a challenge,” he says.
To help partners through the worst of those challenges, back when lockdowns were first going into effect and customers were abruptly putting planned investments on hold, Intel introduced a “channel relief program” this spring. Among other things, the company gave partners an extra six months to accumulate membership points.
“We don’t want people worried about points when they’re trying to run their business,” Garrigues says.
Intel also gave partners an additional six months to meet partner program qualification requirements. “Instead of being a 12-month cycle, it’s now an 18-month cycle for this year,” Garrigues says. “If they’re seeing business impact, we don’t want to impact their tiering and their benefit stack because of that.”
Other elements of the relief program included rolling out extended price discounts, waiving shipping charges for products under warranty, and sharing “best known methods” for tasks like setting up a work-from-home environment for employees. Intel is open to introducing further measures in the future if necessary.
“It’s been a very challenging year,” Garrigues says. “There’s an unprecedented amount of change that’s happening, and I think that there’s also a lot of uncertainty largely in the business environment with COVID.” All of that, he observed, makes anticipating precisely what the next year holds difficult at best.