IT managers are beginning to view the data center more holistically and are taking a more strategic approach to technology procurement and deployment, and technology and service providers that sell into the data center will want to broaden their marketing approach, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner. The company identified six ways that technology and service providers can go to market in the data center.
Gartner analysts recommended competing as a specialist as one way forward, saying the primary advantage of this go-to-market option for strategic marketing, product marketing, product management, marketing communications and brand managers is that the approach is familiar, and notes that if a provider is competing as a specialist, it specializes in one technology area, and it doesn't try to be all things to all people.
Companies can also go to market as a traditional portfolio provider, but Gartner cautions that traditional portfolio providers should carefully monitor the market, and if there is any chance that they might move toward a converged offering, they should begin to explore how an integrated product might be deployed. Partnering is an alternative way to get all the necessary data center infrastructure components into the provider's portfolio if it doesn't have offerings in every category in-house. This approach also enables providers to focus their resources on the things they do best and rely on partners for the rest.
"If you are selling into the data center, you are no longer just competing head-to-head with familiar competitors selling like products," said April Adams, research director at Gartner. "Today, you have increased competition not only in your specific area of technological expertise, but for overall enterprise mind share, as well. Providers will need to expand their view of the competitive landscape and consider alternative ways to go to market in order to highlight their strengths and maximize their sales potential."
The report also noted some portfolio providers have taken a step beyond certification, integration and test, and have developed converged systems or integrated offerings for the data center. The report said if the trend of approaching change in the data center with a definitive strategic plan that includes an integrated project road map continues into 2012, then going to market in this way could position providers as market leaders rather than market followers.
Portfolio providers with a data center transformation offering have the opportunity to sell both in the traditional, silo-based way and as a converged system or integrated stack. "This strategy has all the benefits of both strategies and, with the exception of not being part of the holistic data center conversation, all of the disadvantages as well," the report said. "Going to market both ways allows providers to cover all the bases no matter what buyers opt to do, both individually in the short term and collectively for the longer range."
The final go-to-market strategy alternative for the data center is to deliver the technology as a service-cloud or otherwise. Gartner said advantages to pursuing this go-to-market option, at least for technology (as opposed to service) providers, include the fact that there are several ways to go about it, some requiring less infrastructure investment than others. This alternative also allows providers to stick to their area of expertise while still tapping into the key wants and needs of data center customers.
"These options are not intended to be sequential. Providers can and do dip their toes in the waters of a new option while maintaining most of their business in their mainstay position," Adams said. "Considering these trends as part of your forward-thinking, go-to-market planning and making thoughtful decisions based on your company's unique set of strengths and weaknesses will position you well in the changing market and could give you a marked competitive advantage relative to providers that do not."