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Ecosystem or Feudal System?

Game of Thrones playing on iPad

Game of Thrones recently kicked off its fourth season. And as a devoted fan, I cannot help but see the similarities between the battle for control of Westeros, the Iron Throne and the capital city, King’s Landing and the current gamesmanship developing in the IT Channel for control of the end-user experience, the IT infrastructure backbone, and the datacenter.

Much like the Channel, Westeros the fantasy realm of the HBO hit show, Game of Thrones, is made up of different families and kingdoms. For those who remember their Western Civilization courses, it is basically a feudal system under the mercurial rule of a corruptible monarchy, bordered on the north by snow zombies and hordes of non-allied “wildlings” and to the south east by dragons and a very angry ex-pat, who is raising an army to kill everyone back home.

So how does this relate to the Channel, you ask? Wait for it…anything goes in Westeros and the game is constantly changing. There are three battles raging between the frenemies of the IT Channel. Different players are attacking dominance from different angles.

Carriers such as tw telecom and others have hitched their API burstable wagon to AWS allowing customers to establish private connections to their cloud platform. Their play and bet is on infrastructure connecting to the lead horse in the IaaS game. AWS currently controls 30% of that market. Let’s call them the Lannisters of Westeros, the dominant family seen as the lead player in the race for world control.

AWS is branching out into other areas growing their IaaS footprint with additional IaaS, PaaS and DaaS offerings. Traditional technology hardware vendors are seeing sales negatively impacted by AWS IaaS growth. Much like the Lannisters, AWS can’t be touched since they have the financial backing and strength of stakeholders paying 500+ times future earning for shares in the company. AWS posted its first profit in recent quarters and it will be interesting to see how that story develops as other providers challenge the market.

 House Baratheon, with its divergent leadership and propensity to find itself in multi-front conflicts, falls to VMware.  VMware recently announced a dramatic shift in their Channel strategy. With the acquisition of Desktone, VMware will now be directly competing with their Partners and Service Providers who built infrastructure and practices on VMware’s technology. VMware is challenging both the Channel, while partnering with the Channel. With this acquisition, they are challenging their  former allies at Cisco – it will be fun to see how this double front conflict works itself out, not only for VMware but also for their financial backer, the industry storage giant EMC. VMware is challenging the Channel both at the end-user and the datacenter level. The evolution of automation within their ecosystem will be exciting to watch. 

 House Stark, who represents the old world and the powerful north in Westeros is similar to Cisco’s current position in the Channel. A great legacy of success, yet greater challenges lay ahead. Leading the transition from traditional vendor to cloud services “IT company”, Cisco has begun to shift its gauntlet.  Cisco recently announced an InterCloud offering at their annual Partner Summit, continuing to build on the Cisco Powered messaging and strong partner alliance between their Service Providers and Reseller Channel. Both Cisco salesforce and partners are incentivized to align and position Cisco Powered IaaS and DaaS Service Providers. Cisco’s previous strategy as an “arms dealer” to the likes of AWS, Rackspace, did not work when OpenStack and even the Hypervisor alliances shifted. With one of the largest and most successful distribution Channels in the world it will be exciting to see how Cisco navigates its way in the coming years. Cisco has dominated the network for many years at the core and the edge and is leveraging their existing ecosystem of partners to consolidate their foothold in both the datacenter and end-user mindshare, and infrastructure.

So a quick recap…Cisco is now a Cloud Provider; VMware is hosting its own service offerings and competing directly with legacy vendor and Channel partners; AWS turned a profit (Yay!) and has hired a 5000+ direct salesforce; and tw telecom and other carriers are racing to throw bandwidth and direct connections into IaaS and PaaS platforms. Oh, and Dell is now a private company, Facebook is becoming a bank and Microsoft and Apple are friends! And spoiler alert…King Joffrey was murdered at his own wedding reception.

Ecosystem or Feudal System? It is simply a game of power

Some might be disillusioned by all of this, especially if their business strategy is built around one of these companies and/or technologies. Within chaos and crisis there is greater opportunity, as we’ve all heard that Chinese symbol analogy about danger and opportunity. If the landscape I described above seems confusing to you as an industry professional, just imagine what your customers, business executives and end-users are dealing with. If you can bring the value of clarity to your customer’s current situation or technology need, you will gain their loyalty and trust. In the end, those who deliver capability and can help their customers execute and meet business requirements will be far more successful long-term. Partnering with Quest can help, if you or your clients are looking for some clarity in the chaos engage Quest for some assistance.

Meet the Author
Adam Burke is Quest's Vice President of Sales and Partnerships.
Contact Quest Today  ˄
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