At the Ingram Micro VTN conference this week, VP of Managed Services and Cloud Computing Renee Bergeron (pictured) generated plenty of dialog around managed services and cloud computing. But sometimes you need to read between the lines and listen carefully to what wasn't said. Sometimes, silence in certain areas can tell you a lot about what's next for a company and its channel partners. So, based on my own educated guesses, here's what's next for the Ingram Micro Cloud and Ingram Micro Seismic initiatives.

As you read this blog please permit me some creative freedom. Ingram isn't out in the market describing 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 services milestones. I'm using the terms simply to emphasize chapters in the story -- and to show you where Ingram plans to take MSPs next. Let's get started...

Ingram Micro Managed Services 1.0

I believe Ingram Micro Managed Services 1.0 involved building out Ingam Micro Seismic -- a managed services strategy to help resellers and VARs discover the power of managed services. Folks like Justin Crotty (now at NetEnrich) and Jason Beal (now at Ingram Micro Europe) were deeply involved in this stage.

The Seismic build-out wasn't easy. Ingram successfully transitioned more than 1,000 resellers and VARs into a managed services mindset. Many of those aspiring MSPs developed recurring revenue compensation models and sales strategies while adopting remote monitoring, professional services automation, NOC (network operations center) and other services.

But again, it wasn't easy. Quite a few MSPs struggled to scale beyond a few customers. And Ingram itself had its hands full building partnerships with a range of MSP software providers. Also, the Seismic strategy took on cloud components -- such as Ingram partnering to offer Hosted Exchange to VARs and MSPs.

Ingram Micro Managed Services 2.0

This was a transitional stage. Sometime in early 2010, I believe, Ingram held MSP- and cloud-centric discussions that went all the way up to Ingram's boardroom. The debate: Just how much to invest in managed services and cloud services going forward. Sometime between March and June 2010, I believe, Ingram's executive leadership gave the services team a green light to invest far more deeply in the MSP and cloud trends.

Ingram in June 2010 bolted a Cloud Computing Summit onto the annual Seismic partner conference. Ingram relationships with Salesforce.com, Amazon.com, Rackspace and others emerged. By July 2010, Seismic leader Justin Crotty was ready for a new challenge -- he resigned to join NetEnrich shortly thereafter. His successor, Renee Bergeron, arrived in September 2010 with a rather intriguing title: VP of Managed Services and Cloud Computing. Clearly, Ingram saw the convergence of two markets, and their recurring revenue similarities.

By October 2010, Jason Beal also announced his intent to transition from Ingram North America to Europe. But he didn't run for the exit. Instead, he hit the road with Bergeron -- attending a range of managed services and cloud conferences in October and November 2010. Bergeron and Beal surfaced at Rackspace Partner Leadership Summit and ConnectWise IT Nation.

Ingram Micro Services 3.0

Notice, I've dropped the word "Managed" from the Ingram Micro Services 3.0 stage. This chapter is about both managed services and cloud services. So a pure managed services focus no longer fits the conversation.

By November 2010, Bergeron unveiled Ingram Micro Cloud, an educational portal where VARs and MSPs can gather information and track down third-party SaaS applications. By February 2011, Bergeron described Ingram as the distribution industry's leading cloud aggregator. She spent time at the Parallels conference in Orlando... exploring how the worlds of managed hosting, cloud computing and value-added services were converging.

And this week, Bergeron updated me on a range of moves -- including a new backup and data protection relationship with IBM, a help desk relationship with Fujitsu and a hosted PBX relationship with Intermedia. Funny, but I didn't mention the term Ingram Micro Seismic during my visit to Ingram Micro VTN or during my meetings with Ingram. Sure, Ingram remains firmly committed to managed services. But to me, the "Seismic" term refers mostly to the Ingram 1.0 stage, which I believe wrapped up in mid-2010.

The discussion will continue in June 2011, when Ingram hosts its second-annual Ingram Micro Cloud conference in Arizona. I suspect Ingram will further its Cloud Aggregator strategy at the conference. Earlier this week, I asked Bergeron if Ingram could really generate revenues aggregating third-party SaaS services like Salesforce.com. Her soft-spoken but point-blank reply: "We're not running a charity organization; yes we're generating revenues from these relationships."

What's Next?

Ingram sees the opportunity to tie back-end cloud services to on-premise hardware refreshes. And someday, it's safe to expect Ingram to offer VARs and  MSPs complete in-cloud/on-premise bundles, notes Jason Bystrak, director of services sales at Ingram Micro. I suspect those services will span:
  • On-premise hardware -- tablets, notebooks, PCs and servers, network infrastructure
  • Back-end monitoring services to remotely manage all that on-premise gear
  • Back-end cloud services -- hosted e-mail, unified communications, security, online storage
  • Financing and billing -- a single invoice, from the MSP to the customer, covering all of the above for a single monthly fee.
I wonder: How far away are we from that four-bullet reality? Perhaps we'll get some more answers in June at Ingram Micro Cloud Summit.

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