Big Data’s booming. So why hasn't the channel caught on yet?

Some resellers failing to think outside the box shift

There’s a funny thing happening in the channel at the moment. Big Data solutions are absolutely booming, driven by a perfect storm of mobile computing, 4G connectivity, vast quantities of user generated content, cheaper storage, 10GbE networking, and next gen data management technologies like Hadoop. Yet despite flogging loads of Big Data products, resellers are still curiously unaware of the opportunities that exist for them with this latest buzz word.

This isn’t without precedent of course. It took time for resellers and their customers to understand exactly what cloud computing was, and what it could do for their business, and for vendors to educate them about the cost and efficiency benefits it could bring. Big Data is similar. There’s a compelling case for companies to analyse the vast quantities of data sitting idle on servers to better understand and serve customers, and respond in a more agile way to business change. But that education has been piecemeal at best.

For our recent ChannelWatch report, we asked 4,000 resellers across Western Europe to rate out of five the product categories which they thought represented the best opportunities for the channel in the coming year. In the UK, as in the entire region, Big Data came last, in ninth place behind services, mobility, networking, virtualisation, disaster recovery, cloud computing, telecoms and BYOD, in that order. Yet we found that Big Data channel sales grew an impressive 32 per cent from 2011-12. We use pretty much the broadest definition - storage hardware; networking; software including Hadoop; BI tools; and the professional services that sit on top.

So why such an apparent disconnect? Part of the problem lies with the vendor community. As with many buzzy trends in the technology industry everyone wants a piece of the action, even if their product offerings only address one piece of the puzzle. What happens then is that resellers are swamped with a whole host of different definitions, making it difficult for them to work out exactly what it all means and what kinds of hardware, software and services to combine in a coherent Big Data package for customers. Resellers are working in silos and there are precious few vendors out there who – in offering end-to-end solutions – can show them the bigger picture.

Big Data solutions are technically complex, involving many moving parts which need to be plugged in together, configured and managed. It can take a lot of training for resellers to get familiar with all aspects of hardware, software and services and the multiplicity of vendors all vying for attention in this space. The vendor community could help here by accelerating their accreditation programs but equally, there are many box shifters out there who either don’t want to know or don’t care.

In the end, it’s still early days. Big Data may be booming but there’s plenty more boom to come. Those resellers who end up winning in this space are the ones who pick the right vendors – the ones like HP, IBM and EMC who can provide end-to-end Big Data solutions and help with that education piece. After that it’s down to which vendor has the best prices and the easiest solutions to sell. If the reseller can then get properly skilled up on Big Data then there will be plenty of lucrative opportunities to offer their own services on top. This latest buzz word may have taken many in the channel by surprise, just as cloud computing did a few years back, but this is surely just the beginning. ®

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