IT distributors have been struggling to find their place in the world of cloud computing. The traditional middlemen of the IT community didn't immediately figure out how they would become part of the emerging IT world, but many of them have been doing well with their own vetted catalog of cloud services.

Industry organization CompTIA has taken an interest in what distributors are doing to maintain their relevance. A new CompTIA white paper illustrates how distributors are "at the heart of one of the biggest transformations ever in the distribution chain."

"Unlike traditional IT products with clearly defined architectures and feature sets, cloud computing technology is by design more virtual and decentralized in nature," said Carolyn April, director of Industry Analysis at CompTIA, in a prepared statement. "From a distributor's point of view, this makes the technology more difficult to move through a supply chain—to 'pick, pack and ship.' As if these transactions weren't challenging enough, distributors must also contend with the ongoing disintegration of traditional product categories, which adds a layer of uncertainty to technology development."

CompTIA's "The Role of IT Distribution in a Cloud World" white paper provided details on some of the steps distributors have taken to expand their relevance in the cloud market. According to CompTIA, some of the notable ways include making acquisitions to improve cloud business lines, as well as creating new logistical capabilities built specifically for cloud resellers and cloud services providers.

For many distributors, it hasn't been an easy transition—no more than it has been easy for traditional hardware and software resellers.

With distributors, April sees what appears to be a potentially huge role in cloud computing.

"For the past 20 years, no one type of company has done that better than the industry's wholesale distributors," April said. "If they play their cards right, they could position themselves as the nexus of cloud computing."

As to how channel partners are using distributors, CompTIA found that:

  • 57 percent are using distributors for technical support for cloud solutions.
  • 35 percent are turning to distributors for aggregation of cloud services.
  • 35 percent look to distributors for data center accessibility and hosting services.
  • 33 percent expect them to vet and evaluate cloud services providers and cloud solutions.
  • 25 percent look for relationship brokering with other providers of cloud solutions.