If you work in the IT channel, you're familiar with massive distributors like Arrow, Avnet, Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex and others. But have you heard about SaaS-based distributors and value-added cloud distributors? They're gaining momentum in the channel -- and helping to define how cloud services are deployed and consumed by customers.

A prime example: When McAfee recently announced its Distributor of the Year, the honoree was Excel Micro. And for good reason. Excel Micro partners closely with McAfee's North American SMB sales team, and has delivered McAfee's SaaS solutions to more than 11,000 unique customers.

Key Excel Micro names to know include CEO Joe Vaccone and Director of Marketing Michael Amadio -- both of whom constantly work in and around the channel.

A Closer Look

Take a closer look, and you'll discover that Excel Micro is, indeed, a SaaS distributor that promotes cloud-based security solutions from a range of companies to VARs, MSPs, resellers and emerging cloud brokers/integrators.

Generally speaking, SaaS distributors are like online malls where channel partners can shop around and select from a range of solutions for their customers. In most cases, the pure SaaS distributors don't offer on-premises hardware -- though major distributors (like the ones listed at the top of this article) increasingly blend cloud and on-premises products.

Next Moves

While traditional distributors build out SaaS distribution models, Excel Micro also is marching forward with more channel enhancements. A key example: The company is preparing to integrate its solutions with ConnectWise (stay tuned for updates at the IT Nation 2013 conference in November). The integration should help MSPs to manage their internal businesses while also tracking SaaS services delivered to end-customers.

Another key development: Excel Micro now offers a Universal Service Agreement, which gives partners the ability to offer multiple SaaS solutions to any number of customers under only one overall agreement.

Excel Micro also is expanding and plans to move into larger office space in Philadelphia, Pa., within the next six months or so. The new location is roughly six times the size of Excel Micro's current location.

Potential Rivals

Of course, Excel Micro isn't alone in the SaaS distribution market. Another key example involves Spam Soap -- a McAfee cloud partner that works closely with MSPs across the IT landscape. It's a safe bet Spam Soap will offer partner updates at the IT Nation conference as well.

How influential will SaaS distributors become? Overall it's difficult for me to predict. Excel Micro already ranks among the world's Top 100 Cloud Services Providers, according to our own metrics-based research. 

Talkin' Cloud expects more companies to move into this market but success isn't easy. A SaaS distributor needs to:

  • Build relationships with a range of cloud and SaaS providers that want to reach the channel.
  • Purchase or develop a business management platform to help VARs and MSPs manage all of their various cloud engagements. The platform requires deep financial and business process intelligence -- which isn't easy to develop or deploy. 
  • Reach existing and next-generation channel partners, many of whom don't yet understand the value of SaaS-centric distributors.
  • Aggregate millions of user deployments into a profitable recurring revenue model.

So what's next? Talkin' Cloud expects to gather answers at IT Nation.