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Changing times: How security and DevOps will reshape the channel landscape

UC analytics and networking also make up some of Karl Roe’s predictions for the channel in 2019

Time for change clockwatch

While this isn't something that's happened overnight, it's a fact that simply reselling products is no longer enough to create real customer value and a successful business.

It's becoming increasingly clear the role of the channel is changing to reflect the need for true systems integration, in terms of connectivity and end-user IT systems. This means more than plugging equipment together and configuring.

The channel needs to extend its portfolio of 'off-the-shelf' products and develop specific and maybe even bespoke applications to deliver tailored solutions that support customers' drive for so-called digital transformation and change the way they operate.

And then there's the cloud. As migration shifts from hype to real deployment, the channel also needs to help customers take the next step from hybrid-cloud deployments to building fully API-driven and cloud-integrated platforms. These APIs are here where they didn't exist before, and need to be harnessed by the channel to create additional value. But as in many specialist areas, there is a skills gap in API development and true systems development that forward-thinking channel companies can help to bridge.

Another big shift is the acceleration of both traditional resellers and new channel players embracing the 'as-a-service' model. Meanwhile, many existing MSPs are moving into new services, such as security - becoming MSSPs with the added 'S' for security. We also see DevOps-as-a-Service, fixed cost software development and integration as other great opportunities to expand this delivery model.

There is often fear from end users around development projects and their time and cost to spiral. This is where trusted channel partners can assist in transformation projects that require software development - for a fixed, known and measurable investment.

Staying secure

While 2018 was the year of GDPR warnings, 2019 may be the year we know what the legislation truly means for businesses. For example, we are still awaiting headline GDPR penalties - with the likes of Facebook, BA and Cathay Pacific in the firing line. These may land next year.

Ransomware, cryptomining, and banking Trojans are among the key malware challenges that will continue to challenge businesses, meanwhile, but the stakes are raised with state-sponsored espionage, cyber-crime and sabotage on the rise - targeting the weakest link - end users. The shifting attack vector from the network to the user is causing a reappraisal of how to manage security, with increasing recognition that staff cyber awareness and training is crucial. At the risk of repeating previous predictions, maybe 2019 is the year we realise single-factor passwords are among the easiest keys to the kingdom.

DevOps goes mainstream

Although many organisations have started to adopt DevOps, siloed departments, lack of tools, culture and budget limitations have slowed down implementation.

But with technology such as extended reality, intelligent end-points and digital experiences increasing the need for innovation, businesses will increasingly use DevOps, containers and microservices to modernise applications and rapidly build quality, secure new software. More organisations will adopt continuous delivery to automate the development process, increase efficiency and reduce time-to-market.

Unified Communications (UC) analytics

The speed of UC adoption has not met last year's predictions, but user data on the actual consumption of these services will allow businesses to see how staff collaborate and interact to improve productivity, as well as measure user adoption.

There's been a continued drive of UC vendors entering the service provider space and offering their applications from the cloud. System integrators are now offering network services and are being acquired by service providers. Direct Marketing Resellers (DMRs) are also now investing in their services propositions and cloud capabilities, adding much more value beyond standard hardware and software supply. Distributors are also much less hardware based. The overall UC landscape of providers is becoming blurred with new partnerships and types of providers emerging - and this is likely to continue in 2019.

Network talk

As firms embark on digital transformation, embrace the cloud and harness new data-hungry applications, they need trust in their networks more than ever. But as well as building in strong resilience, reliability and security, organisations need to make sure they maximise performance from existing and fresh networks. This means focusing on tech that provides visibility and analytics and delivers network optimisation in or near real-time. For cloud-centric environments, one of the disruptive technologies likely to feature in 2019 is live data analytics in a multitenant environment for 'on-the-fly' management.

If there is one networking technology likely to define 2019, it will be Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN). By removing the need for costly MPLS lines, and taking advantage of broadband internet with the same performance, SD-WANs deliver efficiency and resilience but at a fraction of the cost. The forward-thinking reseller will not only add SD-WAN to their portfolio but also look to deliver SD-WAN as-a-Service.

Karl Roe is vice president for services and cloud at Nuvias

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