As we embark on a new year, the IT channel landscape is poised for exciting developments. In the Middle East, a region that is undergoing an enormous digital transformation, fuelled by multiple forward-thinking national initiatives that prioritise economic diversification and sustainability, these trends hold enormous potential. From vertical specialisation to artificial intelligence to the rising relevance of data centre autonomy, channel partners have a plethora of opportunities to differentiate themselves in the enterprise market and thrive. Let’s take a deeper look at what lies ahead for the IT channel.
Key vertical specialisation to aid growth
Specialising parts of the business or specific teams for key verticals such as retail, healthcare and education, will likely be a key consideration for partners in 2024. We have witnessed many partners focusing on specific verticals that are showing an increased demand for network upgrades and it’s already proving to be successful.
Consider healthcare, which is an essential part of the We the UAE 2031 vision. As the healthcare industry looks to transform their networks and their services become increasingly digital, partners need to focus their efforts on providing intelligent, AI-driven solutions that have the capabilities to offer high performance networking and location-services that aid today’s smart healthcare systems. Similarly in the education and retail space, we are seeing more customers adopting the capabilities of AI and location services to enhance the user experience. Many hospitality customers are using AI-driven networks to create a unique experience for their customers, including enhanced check-in services and rooms that are reliant on the network like never before. Universities are also utilising AI network capabilities to deliver a more digital and connected experience across campus.
Partners are already reaping the benefits of creating specialised teams to focus on verticals and there is ongoing opportunity in 2024 to support the verticals with an increased demand to transform network operations, and then use this knowledge to deliver a great experience to customers in that space. For partners that want to evolve into this model, they should look to reputable vendors to support them on their journey, selecting the right solutions portfolio and working in close collaboration with the right support, training, and tools to identify opportunities in key verticals.
Partners will look to adopt and sell more AI/LLM tools
Partners will continue to adopt more solutions for their customers as generative AI (GenAI) and Large Language Models (LLMs) continue to evolve. These tools will be used by enterprises to create more intelligent and responsive IT networks. For example, instead of having to call a helpdesk to troubleshoot a problem, individual users will be able to simply ask their network why their Zoom session is not working, and it will be able to automatically diagnose and fix the problem. LLMs will also be used to develop even more proactive and predictive IT maintenance tools, which can help prevent problems from happening in the first place.
For 2024, enterprises will see and utilise even more real-life examples of AI. Initially used as a ‘buzz-word’, AI had a somewhat unclear trajectory in terms of its capabilities, until now. AI itself has and will continue to come a long way in proving itself as a useful tool. With the rise of ChatGPT, the world is only beginning to see the true impact that AI can have, especially when integrated with existing technologies. Many enterprises and their channel partners will see the benefit of adopting AI-driven assistants powered by LLM to assist network operations as well as helping users to troubleshoot network problems.
According to research, the overall economic impact of GenAI could reach US $23.5 billion per year by 2030 in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. This is a big opportunity for partners in 2024 and one they should research and adopt for their sales strategies to ensure further profitability and growth as the industry sees tangible use cases for AI and LLM technology.
Channel ecosystems will continue to gain traction
The channel ecosystem model is increasingly adopted by many vendors, partners and resellers as it drives a better, unified experience for the customer. The power of the ecosystem shifts the somewhat siloed structure of traditional relationships and enables multiple partners to have a shared objective in supporting a customers’ needs, they can share their knowledge and deliver increasingly innovative solutions to reach the best outcome. If a partner is focused on a niche area, collaboration allows them to increase their market reach and expand their influence into other areas.
For the end user, collaboration through ecosystems leads to improved product offerings and improved service as vendors look to find the most efficient way to reach end goals using their shared expertise. By working together, partners can offer more comprehensive solutions beyond their specific target market which appeals to a wider set of customers.
Partners will support customers’ data centre autonomy
Many organisations have realised that public cloud is not always as simple and cheap as many had thought. Cloud regret is the new story as we hear countless anecdotes of companies repatriating workloads back to private, on-premise data centres.
We are now seeing the beginnings of these same decisions with respect to plans for new AI data centre infrastructure. But this time, companies will be smarter and more thoughtful. Yes, building out a new GPU cluster is expensive, but so is renting that capacity from a hyperscaler. Many companies will opt to build on-premise AI data centres for better control, tighter security and, yes, lower costs than public cloud alternatives.
It’s worth mentioning that the Middle East data centre market is expected to reach US $7.94 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.53%. Partners are noticing this shift in customers’ decision-making too and there is a huge opportunity to support them in this transformation as long as they have the right expertise and solutions to aid them on their journey.
The benefit to customers to building on-premise AI data centres is that they will achieve better control, tighter security and lower costs than public cloud alternatives. Of course, the partners that harness this opportunity will reap the benefits of diversifying their services into the data centre space and increase their sales opportunities.