Tech Data (NASDAQ: TECD) has separate mobile and cloud services initiatives for VARs and MSPs. But over time you'll see more and more synergies between TDMobility and TDCloud. The result: Channel partners could gain end-to-end capabilities for sourcing and managing tablet, smarthphone and cloud services.

Tech Data's secret sauce is StreamOne -- a home-grown software platform upon which the distributor is launching a range of channel partner services. Bharath Natarajan, director of TDCloud, played a key role in developing the StreamOne vision.

Inflection Point

When introducing cloud and mobile services to channel partners, distributors must decide whether to (A) build sourcing and procurement systems on their own or (B) leverage third-party software platforms. In some cases, distributors and telcos are running their cloud services stores atop platforms like Parallels or Jamcracker. In Tech Data's case, the company chose to write its own code while also investing in software from SAP, I believe.

TDCloud already runs atop the StreamOne platform. And over time, it sounds to me like TDMobility will increasingly leverage StreamOne. (That could already be the case; I need to double-check.)

Increased Synergies

The net long-term result: Imagine an online environment where VARs and MSPs can source and activate tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices for customers. Then, with a few more clicks, the channel partners can activate cloud services -- hosted email, cloud storage, etc. -- and apps that extend out across those devices.

That's the long-term reality Natarajan and Tech Data are striving to deliver. 

Near-term, Natarajan is urging MSPs and VARs to focus on end-customer education. During a Tech Data TDCloud conference last week near Tampa, Fla., he avoided the temptation to hype TDCloud -- stating that the platform continues to evolve with more enhancements coming.

Instead, Natarajan spent most of his stage time describing a four-part cloud playbook for channel partners. That playbook covers everything from (1) cloud enablement to (2) people and expertise, (3) vendor readiness and enablement and (4) customer enablement.

Competition Looms

Of course, Tech Data faces plenty of competition from rival distributors that are building out cloud and mobile services. Among the distributor initiatives worth watching: Arrow Cloud ServicesAvnet Cloud Solutions, Ingram Micro Cloud and Synnex CloudSolv.

Ingram Micro, for one, will update its cloud strategy during an Ingram Micro Cloud Summit scheduled for April 7-10 in Phoenix, Ariz. It's one of our Top 100 Channel Partner Conferences worth watching for 2013.

Tech Data, meanwhile, continues to research the market as well. Natarajan has been on the road investigating emerging cloud services at major third-party conferences. That research will continue this year.