At first glance, rivals Ingram Micro and Tech Data are launching regional SaaS and cloud experiments involving channel partners. But take a closer look at North America, Europe and Australia, and you'll see the start of a global SaaS battle between Ingram Micro and Tech Data. Here are the details, and the implications for solutions providers.

The story starts in Australia, where Ingram Micro has joined the new Kaseya SaaS Partner Program (KSP). Switch your attention to North America, and Ingram Micro continues to build out its Seismic business, which includes multiple SaaS offerings for VARs and MSPs. Turn your eyes to Europe, and Tech Data has quietly gained SaaS channel momentum with a service called Fusyx.

Other distributors are making SaaS and MSP moves. In particular, keep an eye on Synnex, which is working with former MSP Services Network (MSPSN) CEO Amy Luby and itControl Solutions to develop a series of on-demand solutions for partners.

The bigger question: Will Ingram and Tech Data each take their regional SaaS efforts global? The VAR Guy's bet: Absolutely yes. But it's going to take some time to happen.

Hidden Success?

The VAR Guy is most intrigued by Europe, where Tech Data Belgium has developed a "set of SMB services based on Parallels Automation software." Tech Data says the effort, branded as Fusyx...
"enables the delivery of hosted Microsoft Exchange, Windows SharePoint, Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), BlackBerry services, shared hosting for Windows and Linux, VPS hosting based on Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, hosting Microsoft CRM and Windows media streaming. Parallels Business Automation complements this with complete ordering and billing."
Intriguing. But will VARs and MSPs sign up to offer the SaaS services to end-customers? Apparently, yes. Sources at this week's Parallels Summit in Miami said roughly 80 partners are working closely with Fusyx. Not a bad showing, considering the platform is only about two months old.

A spokesman for Tech Data is checking with Tech Data Europe for an official comment about Fusyx's progress.

Beyond Europe

More moves are coming. At least two other major distributors are evaluating Parallels' platform for potential SaaS initiatives, The VAR Guy has learned. Translation: Parallels could become a software arms dealer in a global distributor SaaS war.

Also of note: Tech Data's corporate management team apparently is keeping tabs on Fusyx and Tech Data Belgium. If Fusyx gains momentum, there's speculation Tech Data will repeat the SaaS initiative in other regions.

Of course, this blog entry is filled with heavy speculation -- and some key answers are still missing (imagine that...). Among the pressing questions:
  • How many end-customers have signed up to use the Fusyx services?
  • Can Fusyx become a profitable, sustainable business for Tech Data?
  • How are early VAR and MSP experiences with Fusyx? And are those channel partners actually profiting from the service?
Hmmm... like The VAR Guy said... plenty of questions need to be resolved. Hopefully, our resident blogger will get some updates from Tech Data.

Leader or Laggard?

In some ways, Tech Data is playing catch up in the MSP and SaaS markets. A prime example: Ingram Micro's Seismic team in North America has been gaining substantial momentum with VARs and MSPs seeking recurring revenue.

When Ingram Micro announced quarterly financial results last week, most pundits forgot to check in with Seismic. Poke around, and you'll learn Seismic’s revenue apparently grew 80 percent and the services division doubled its partner base. For Q4, Seismic had double-digit growth. And four of the past five months have been among Seismic’s strongest. At least... that's what The VAR Guy is hearing from multiple sources.

Can Tech Data Belgium's Fusyx gain similar momentum? And will all of these regional SaaS efforts evolve into global SaaS strategies for Ingram Micro and Tech Data?

Again, The VAR Guy says "absolutely yes." But this story is going to take another two to three years to play out. Please check back every day through 2013 for updates.