ChannelPro January 2016 : Page 23

ture leaders to continue providing high-quality services at bargain-basement prices. Nothing terribly surprising about that, of course, but you could be in for a shock if you rely on one of the cloud world’s lesser players. With the big providers gobbling up more and more of the IaaS pie, Herbert and her Forrester colleagues expect many smaller vendors to have either merged with someone else or exited the market by this time next year. There could be tough decisions ahead for anyone making their money selling Office 365 seats as well. According to IDC’s Chute, Microsoft’s online collaboration suite will cross a crucial milestone in 2016, with serious implications for the channel—by the end of this year, more than 50 percent of U.S. SMBs will be running it. “The cloud space is becoming very commoditized, very quickly,” Chute observes, leaving big-time Office 365 resellers perhaps a year or two to find another focus area. Building customized cloud solutions is an option worth consider-ing, he adds. While IDC expects SMB technology budgets to be all but flat this year, mobility investments will rise by 50 to 70 percent. Most of those outlays will be for what Chute calls “mobile enable-ment,” meaning systems that give users anytime, anywhere access to legacy on-premises solutions. Admittedly, creating those systems takes development skills most channel pros lack at present. But the learning curve isn’t as steep as it used to be, Chute notes, because platform-as-a-service offer-ings like IBM Bluemix and Microsoft Azure streamline and automate cloud solution writing. “Partners now … have an easy on-ramp into the application development space,” he says. The Cloud Finally Pays Off HERE’S A MIND-BLOWING SPOILER for the cloud comput-ing space from Forrester analyst Liz Herbert: “We might start WRVHHVRPHSURŵWDELOLW\Ŕ Now that businesses increasingly understand and trust online solutions, Herbert notes, vendors no longer need to invest as much in cloud evangelism, and that’s good news IRUERWKWKHLUERWWRPOLQHVDQGWKHLUUHVHOOHUVœ$VZHVWDUW WRVHHVRPHKHDOWKLHUŵQDQFLDOV&#0f;WKDWZLOODGGVRPHVWDELO -LW\WRWKHPDUNHWDQGDOHYHORIFRQŵGHQFHIRUWKHFKDQQHO&#0f;Ŕ VKHVD\V “We’ll finally have a new way for servers to talk to storage,” he says. “It’s one of these technologies that only comes around every couple of decades.” SMBs are likely to be heavily represented among early NVMe adopters too, he continues. Most NVMe devices are designed to slip into ordinary PCIe slots, plus major operating systems (including Win-dows Server and some versions of Linux) already include NVMe driv-ers. That should make NVMe an easy fit for the stand-alone storage devices favored by companies too small for a SAN. DIGITAL SIGNAGE The largest surprises in digital signage this year will come in small packages. After years of growing steadily bigger, displays have pretty much reached their limit size-wise, according to signage expert Alan Brawn, principal of Brawn Consulting Inc., of Vista, Calif. Hardware manufacturers are sure to roll out plenty of big, pricey new 4K de-vices in 2016, but 10-inch and smaller models will be where the really interesting action is. “You’re going to see the appearance of digital signage in areas that you didn’t think practical,” Brawn says, including retail shelves, restrooms, and medical examining rooms. You’ll even see so-called “techorators” using compact displays as affordable ways to add mo-tion and color to interior design schemes. “A 46-inch display would never be thought of as an accent piece,” Brawn notes dryly. Look for solutions like MoZone, from U.K.-based Screen Media Technology Ltd., to start showing up in greater numbers this year too. MoZone is the first of what Brawn expects to be a wave of new solutions that can deliver targeted, location-specific content to smart-phones and tablets via Wi-Fi, essentially turning mobile devices into miniature, handheld signage displays. “It’s just a really cool technol-ogy,” he says. Then again, it might end up being a total bust. Forecasting the unexpected, Brawn rightly observes, is ultimately a guessing game. “Anybody who tells you several months in advance what big surprises are out there is basically smoking funny cigarettes,” he says. Not that that’s ever stopped us from listening to them just the same. RICH FREEMAN is ChannelPro-SMB ’s senior news editor. STORAGE This year’s least expected change in storage will be how much more frequently channel pros hear their favorite vendors talking about a still young and relatively obscure communications interface called Non-Volatile Memory Express, or NVMe. “[Non-Volatile Memory Express is] one of these technologies that only comes around every couple of decades.” GREG SCHULZ, FOUNDER AND SENIOR ADVISOR, SERVER STORAGEIO AND UNLIMITEDIO LLC That’s according to Greg Schulz, founder and senior advisor at Server StorageIO and UnlimitedIO LLC. Created with support from Dell, SanDisk, Seagate, and other industry heavyweights, and tailored for use with solid-state storage drives, NVMe is dramatically faster than disk-oriented technologies like SAS and SATA. It’s also, Schulz notes, the first serious alternative to the SCSI standard in many years. ChannelPro: The Insider’s Guide to SMB JANUARY 2016 23

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