Three trends IT channel leaders should look out for in 2024 and beyond

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The channel is evolving, with multi-cloud disrupting the way the channel works, edge computing set to offer a major opportunity in the form of large-scale digital transformation projects, and artificial intelligence (AI) offering a wealth of new possibilities. .

These three key trends will define the future of the channel in the coming year, changing the way partners operate and the services they deliver for customers.

Going forward, channel partners will require knowledge and education around these trends and must embrace them to help their customers maximize their IT investments.

Tech vendors have a duty to educate and inspire partners to drive these technologies forward. Collaboration will be essential in the channel ecosystem endeavors into creating fresh opportunities and new ways to deliver for customers.

Multi-cloud is no longer a luxury

Hybrid and multi-cloud are the twin engines that are driving the modernization of IT across every sector, including a disruption of the channel landscape. In 2023, the work of a traditional corporate reseller, that buys, enhances and sells products, still exists but alongside new, evolving ways to work. 

Cloud service providers are increasingly taking over some of the capacity, as business requirements that historically were done in a data center are moving to the cloud.

Customers enjoy the benefits of cloud infrastructure, but also realize that adopting a one-size-fits-all approach carries risks, including the fact that they might be left behind by more agile competitors.

There is no doubt that the multi-cloud trend will continue, moving from the large enterprise market where it began into the small and medium business space.

This is changing the role of resellers who are now helping to create or manage cloud infrastructure, and delivering solutions that empower customers to enjoy the benefits of hybrid cloud. Resellers will increasingly play a critical role in managing digital transformation projects and offering customers the choice of multiple cloud vendors.

Going forward, multi-cloud will become even more ubiquitous. Gartner predicts that “cloud computing continues to evolve, progressing from being just a technology disruptor, to where, in 2028, it will be a necessity”.

For resellers in the channel, this offers a variety of opportunities, offering everything from platform to infrastructure and end-user services. Multi-cloud will be adopted widely by organizations of all sizes in the channel.

The opportunity of edge

Edge computing offers a new chance for channel partners to deliver specialist solutions to sectors that are hungry to bring the computing to the data, rather than vice versa. This technology is considered the backbone of modern digital transformation, and as a result will be an increasing presence in the channel in the coming years.

The ability to move processing and applications to the places where data is produced will be central to every transformation project, in turn driving enterprise spending on software, hardware and services.

IDC forecasts that spending on edge computing will reach $317 billion by 2026, having risen by 13.1% to $208 billion this year.

Over the next couple of years, compute power will move significantly to the edge, eliminating the need to send data off-site. By processing and computing at source, edge enables real-time decision-making, with benefits felt across all aspects, from improved customer experience in retail to helping telecom providers to virtualize network functions.

Given its increasing importance to a multitude of sectors, channel partners are already spending significant time and money to pick the right technology suppliers for edge projects.

For channel partners, this is a golden opportunity to deliver specialist solutions that enable edge computing, and this is only going to grow as more sectors embrace it.

AI in the channel

Channel partners are already keen to ride the wave of AI. Everyone is talking about it, whether they are in the technology business or not. But the challenge for IT vendors over the coming year is to inspire channel partners to understand how they can use AI to solve real business challenges.

Technology vendors can give partners the confidence to unlock their imaginations in terms of what AI could bring to customers. Partners need to figure out who to work with, which solutions to use, and what business models to adopt. IT vendors can therefore help channel partners understand the answers to these problems, and in turn help customers start their AI journey.

IT vendors need to access state of the art AI solutions, allowing customers to deploy AI faster, safely, and more efficiently. Key to this is providing access to a partner ecosystem, including AI Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), across various applications and services. 

ISVs will be among the first to reap the rewards of AI, with Canalys predicting that generative AI will offer a $158.6 million opportunity for the channel ecosystem by 2028.

Partnerships will be crucial here. One of the major roadblocks to wider AI adoption is the fact that even if companies buy the best software or hardware, there can still be issues harnessing the technology and ensuring employees have the right skills to maximize their AI investments. It is crucial that IT vendors have initiatives in place to combat these challenges.

For example, the Lenovo AI Innovators Program works closely with AI software companies, letting partners connect with AI and hardware experts to ensure everything works, helping the channel to take advantage of the opportunities of AI.

Towards new opportunities

These three tectonic shifts are redefining not just the way enterprises use technology, but the way the channel operates, and the opportunities for partners. 

As cloud technology, edge computing and AI become increasingly prominent in the world of work, opportunities will grow even further for forward-thinking channel partners.

Collaboration and careful planning will enable the channel to take advantage of these possibilities, and deliver innovative services for customers in every sector.

Ralf Jordan
Vice president, channel EMEA at Lenovo