Brocade’s latest survey of 350 global resellers and systems integrators reveal that their customers’ primary network-specific concern is ‘data centre availability’, driven by virtualisation and mobility, as opposed to ‘network-complexity’ which was their biggest concern last year,
Despite the fact that legacy enterprise networks are not ‘fit for purpose’, and a significant number experience multiple outages every week, there still seems to be an ‘unwillingness’ to invest in upgrades. 62 percent of the channel believes that budget constraints are having a ‘significant impact’ on customers’ ability to invest in technology, with 63 percent seeing vendor financing as ‘vital’ or ‘more important’ over the next few years.
Almost a third of the channel stated that their customers only invested in networks when they want to adopt a new technology and their network cannot support the deployment of the specific new application or service. More than one in 10 admitted that investment was made only when the network was already failing. However that trend is slowly changing. The survey identified that the five top drivers of network investment are the desire to adopt virtualisation (41 percent); demand for faster access to data and applications (41 percent); demand for greater bandwidth (32 percent); the need to support increasing data volumes (25 percent); and the need to support mobility (24 percent).
Khaled Kamel, Territory Channel Manager, MENA, Brocade says, “Customers have now realised that they need to be more proactive when it comes to modernising their network infrastructure rather than their current reactive mode. As they look to adopt virtualisation, software-defined networking, BYOD culture and meet the needs of more demanding users, it is imperative for them to deploy an on-demand, highly flexible and robust network infrastructure. They will be looking to the channel as strategic advisors.”
“It is clear from the survey that Ethernet fabric based data center architectures will be the de-facto standard in the future and those partners who can assist customers in their journey to fabrics will undoubtedly have a huge competitive advantage,” he adds.
Channel businesses expect wide scale adoption of fabric networks by 2020, with over a fifth claiming it will be the ‘standard/norm’ for data centers to be built on fabric networks, and almost half saying it will be ‘very common’ to have fabric networks deployed in the data center by this time. One significant challenge, however, is confusion among customers as to what a ‘fabric’ network is with a third of the respondents admitting that customers ‘have little to no real understanding of fabrics’. This is where consultancy and services will play a major role and these are expected to be major revenue earners for the channel in the years to come.
Consultancy and/or services account for less than 20 percent of revenues for 40 percent of respondents. Less than one fifth reported revenues of more than 50 percent from these sources. This remains virtually unchanged from last years’ research findings, but with over a third expecting consultancy and services to deliver more than 75 of their revenue by 2020 (in the 2012 findings), the question remains how they will make this transition. This year 74 percent confirmed that consultancy/ services revenue growth is ‘critical’ or ‘important’ to the future of their organisation. The three biggest challenges to evolving their business strategies cited are low awareness of consultancy value among customers, competition from vendors, and a lack of people experienced in consultancy/services sales. Marketing services and client education are where distribution and vendors can both deliver additional value and support, while addressing a lack of experienced sales personnel is also an area where they can perform a critical role, redefining and refocusing training and education programs to help fill the ‘skills gap’.
According to the survey, a quarter of the channel believes SDN will be a significant trend by 2020, but currently a third admit to knowing little about SDN. And it also stated that flexibility, not cost savings, is the main reason customers adopt the cloud (cited by almost a third of respondents), followed by fast adoption of applications according to 18 percent.
The Brocade survey was conducted with the support of partners Avnet, TD Azlan, TechData, Arrow ES, edsLAN, immix group, Mindware and Westcon.