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Live Blog: CompTIA ChannelCon 2016 Day 2

Todd Thibodeaux

Todd Thibodeaux

CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux kicked off ChannelCon 2016’s keynote this morning describing key people and talent issues that are straining the IT channel and the technology industry overall. He also described how CompTIA will help to close the talent gap.

That keynote kicked off a lengthy day of meetings between ChannelE2E and sources representing CompTIA, Ingram Micro, Intronis MSP Solutions, pax8, and Datto, among others. Here’s a sampling of the keynote discussion and conversations.

Mentoring IT Talent

Thibodeaux predicted that there will be a 15 percent talent shortage across IT and the channel over the next few years. He also lamented the diversity challenges. Although STEM initiatives are preparing more programmers, he noted that only addresses one small piece of the IT and technology puzzle.

The big question CompTIA and its partners now weigh: “How do you encourage kids 14-18 to pursue a career in IT?” Amid a range of interviews, CompTIA discovered:

1. The College Dream is all powerful with parents and kids, regardless of gender and ethnicity.

  • College is about solidifying their relationships, high school kids often said, rather than career preparation and career pursuits.

2. High school curriculum is now all about college prep.

  • The problem: Hands-on tech skills are not seen as college prep anymore. They used to be a core part of the curriculum.
  • Coding has hijacked the college prep mindset.

3. There is no silver bullet.

  • No single item — no YouTube video, no social network — will convince a high school kid to pursue a career in IT.

4. Kids have gotten the message about following your passion.

5. Role models rule.

  •  to work with partners to develop in-school and out-of-school curriculum and projects.Instead of trying to create a clone of themselves, role models have to tell the student why they love what you do.
  • Instead of trying to create a clone of themselves, role models have to tell the student why they love what you do.

Teaser Alert: CompTIA plans to spend four years working on projects, tools and techniques to engage young people. The program will be called “Next Up” — the next people to take jobs of the future in IT. Watch for CompTIA to work with partners to develop in-school and out-of-school curriculum and projects.

Hourly Meetings

ChannelE2E also is meeting hourly with a range of attendees. Here are sound bytes from each meeting:

1. Virtualization and Data Protection: Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda has launched a virtualization appliance for MSPs. In theory the move allows Intronis MSPs to consolidate solutions — potentially away from Veeam, which is well-known for its virtualization support.

2. MSP Acquisition Learnings: Untangled Solutions, a healthcare-centric MSP, was approached several times about selling the business before finally negotiating a deal with Wheelhouse IT. Among the key M&A tips shared by one of the sellers: MSPs spend far too much time focusing on top-line revenues, and should spend far more time focused on bottom-line profit growth. Untangled made that shift to a profit-driven mindset in recent years.

3. Ingram Micro Cloud: A “cloud your way” approach is accelerating. Keep an eye on the Odin Essentials platform, which lets partners host and launch their own cloud marketplace. (Ingram Cloud Marketplace, in contrast, is run and managed by Ingram.) And a referral program is gaining momentum with former Microsoft advisor program members, since the advisor program is phasing out. On the public cloud front, Ingram is starting to see both ISVs and partners embracing Azure. A relationship with ConnectWise also continues to thrive across service desk, billing and CloudConsole, according to Jason Bystrak, executive director of Ingram Micro Cloud.

4. Ingram Hardware as a Service: Ingram is rolling out a HaaS program, according to Senior VP Kirk Robinson. It involves asset lifecycle management (ALM) technology acquired during the Cloud Blue buyout a few years ago. Watch for a Device as a Subscription (DaaS) program to emerge soon. Or as some folks say, call it Rent IT.

5. pax8: The cloud distributor specialist launched back in 2012, and several of the team members are MXLogic veterans. For those who don’t recall, MXLogic was a channel-centric SaaS security provider. McAfee (later owned by Intel) ultimately acquired MXLogic. Fast forward to present day and the pax8 story is a “quote to cash” story for channel partners seeking to offer their customers solutions, according to Ryan Walsh, SVP of partner solutions. So far pax8 has about 60 vendors across 8 categories running on its cloud distribution system. The company is approaching 1,000 partners, bringing on about 50 per month. Impressive.

6. Datto: Next up, Datto VP Rob Rae now. The company continues an international push in Europe, Australia and now Singapore — where the company recently opened its latest data center. On the software front, Datto continues to see more and more momentum for its freemium file sync and share platform — Datto Drive — which generates end-user leads for MSPs. More than 100 partners, meanwhile, are beta testing Datto Network Appliance (DNA) — a unified threat management (UTM) and WiFi network switch.

7. IoT Momentum?: Roughly 23 percent of partners say they’ve made some money from IoT solutions or projects, up from 8 percent last year, CompTIA Senior VP Tim Hebert said. Cost savings — perhaps through time or operational savings — is the big perceived benefit. IoT will require a deeper amount of specialization around specific verticals. So partners have to think about which verticals they currently serve, and what are some of the specialty IoT offerings for those verticals. Next up, CompTIA will publish a report on cloud services, then a state of the channel report.

8. D&H: The distributor is now offering various pre-sales support offerings to its SMB reseller partners, a differentiator in the market, according to Peter DiMarco. The big priorities including helping partners move up market, shifting from 5 to 10 user deployments up to 10 to 50 seat engagement. More investments in the cloud and solutions areas are coming, particularly with Office 365, security and storage. For the cloud piece, watch for education and enablement, automated toolsets, and concierge support. The company is enjoying double-digit growth in multiple segments — including a big K-12 push.

This live blog continues. Check back every few minutes for more thoughts from our one-on-one conference meetings.

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