Loggly: In your 2014 Cloud Channel report, you state that 2013 was the year of growing pains for the channel with respect to the cloud, with stagnating sales and high expectations from customers. Is this a temporary blip or sign of a bigger shift in the industry?
Walsh: The shift to the cloud is placing pressure on the channel. The vendor community hasn’t made it easy, and margins are more compressed, so resellers and integrators have to rely more on special services like integration and managed services to make money. The real issue is the channel community of resellers need to better define their role in the cloud and services era. Too many are treating cloud services as one-off products rather than strategic components to greater business solutions. Resellers that create offerings based on clouds or clouds as a component of larger systems are doing well. The rest of the market should follow suit, and that will help drive up cloud channel performance.
Loggly: You mentioned more interest from customers in IT management platforms. What’s the potential for cloud-based log management and cloud-based APM and monitoring systems?
Walsh: I see it going up. The average customer could care less where the technology comes from. They’re thinking about doing logistics better or making a better hotel chain. While I hate the term “Internet of Things,” it’s true that we have many more sensors and devices connected to the Internet, and they all need to be reliable and process information well, such as the logs they generate. If I can outsource the monitoring and management of those devices and data and focus on the insight from the logs instead of worrying about how all these boxes work, that is valuable. The IT people managing those systems simply want access to a comprehensive dashboard so that they can see what’s going on and push changes without disrupting productivity. That’s a huge benefit of using the cloud for these activities.
Loggly: What other trends in IT infrastructure management are going to be important in the coming year?
Walsh: I continue to see the convergence between mobile and traditional IT management layers. Mobile devices are becoming assimilated into the fabric of IT. Virtualization continues to grow. About 60 to 80% of all servers are virtualized today but now vendors are focusing heavily on desktops, mobile endpoints and other virtualization layers. Yet there are growing pains with virtualization and organizations are running into issues with sprawl and overspending. They make the mistake by virtualizing everything, because it’s so easy to do, rather than prioritizing applications that should be virtual. Do you need all these applications running at the same time? Probably not. It’s important to figure out which applications and instances you can run during business hours and which ones you can run during off hours, which will help with saving on virtual resources.
Loggly: Are logs getting more focus these days in IT organizations?
Walsh: There is more data and the volume of logs is growing, yet companies have a difficult time identifying what data to look at. Just 10 years ago, when we discussed log data, it was a simpler challenge. We talked about syslog and security and firewall logs. There has always been a desire to look at logs as an indicator of performance, efficiency, and utilization. But now the need for log management has increased tremendously with the complexity of systems and the far greater volume and diversity of log data types.
Loggly: What do you think it will take for logs to deliver on their promise, especially as they proliferate at such a high rate?
Walsh: As data volumes increase and diversity of data sources from logs proliferates, businesses will need better tools and training. Data is good, but the tools to refine data into intelligence is an absolute imperative. Moreover, the industry will need to do a better job of providing users with the know-how to leverage these tools and data, so they can get the information they need to make better decisions.
Larry Walsh is CEO and chief analyst at 2112 Group, a business strategy firm focused on improving the performance of technology companies’ direct and indirect channels. Walsh is a former editor and columnist for publications including Baseline Magazine, Channel Insider, VARBusiness and Information Security Magazine (TechTarget). Follow him on Twitter: @lmwalsh2112