SB C&S, a Japanese technology distributor owned by SoftBank, has selected Ingram Micro's CloudBlue software platform to drive cloud subscriptions and licenses for Microsoft 365, Dropbox and local Japanese ISVs.
The partnership surfaces at an intriguing time for Ingram Micro, SoftBank and the accelerated shift to cloud-driven subscription services. In fact, the targeted relationship makes me wonder: Is the CloudBlue deal a testbed for a potentially larger SoftBank-Ingram Micro relationship down the road?
Ingram Micro and SoftBank: Facts and Speculation
Hmmm... Here are five pieces of background coupled with ChannelE2E speculation.
1. Fact: The CloudBlue Commerce and CloudBlue Connect platforms allow businesses to automate, aggregate and sell both their own cloud services as well as those from third-party vendors. CloudBlue powers more than 200 cloud marketplaces, which collectively represent more than 30 million enterprise cloud subscriptions, Ingram Micro says.
2. Endorsement: In a prepared statement, Kazuya Kusakawa, senior vice president of SB C&S, said: “At SB C&S, we provide our sales partners with access to the world’s leading technology solutions. We’re excited to be collaborating with CloudBlue, the world’s leading cloud platform provider, to shift our distribution businesses to next stage.”
3. Fact: SoftBank, based in Tokyo, also runs Vision Fund, which is considered the world's largest technology-focused venture capital fund. But Vision Fund hit some turbulence -- even before the coronavirus pandemic -- amid shaky investments in shared economy companies like Uber and WeWork.
4. Fact: Ingram Micro is owned by HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate that has struggled under various debt loads. Despite HNA Group's financial challenges, Ingram Micro's own business continues to perform well.
5. Previous M&A Speculation: From time to time, rumors pop up that HNA Group may look to sell Ingram Micro in order to strengthen HNA Group's own financial footing. Rumored Ingram Micro buyers included RRJ Capital (2019) Apollo Global Management (2018), but those purported M&A deals never materialized.
Ingram Micro and SoftBank: ChannelE2E Speculation
Fast forward to present day. Now, piece together all of the items above. Those items -- rolled together -- make me wonder: Is the CloudBlue relationship a test run for a larger SoftBank-Ingram Micro relationship, financial investment or perhaps even acquisition?
Admittedly, that's pure speculation on ChannelE2E's part. But we'll be watching to see if our speculation turns into something more...