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OK, it’s an understatement to say 2009 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the
economy. The recession hit everybody hard, and the IT industry, including the
channel, was no exception. Even as many companies managed to turn quarterly
profitsalbeit very modest onesthese came
mainly as a result of deep cost-cutting, not revenue generation. And not every
business even managed that. Ever-reliable Microsoft, for example, endured its
first-ever year-on-year decline, posting an 18 percent drop in profits for
fiscal 2009.

And yet, indicators point to a slow turnaround in 2010, with increased IT
spending in certain areas such as virtualization, infrastructure and managed
services. Folks in the channel that have weathered this recession and continued
to invest in their businesses despite the tough times will be positioned well
to take advantage of opportunities next year.

Still, 2009 wasn’t all a bust. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let’s
take a look back at some of the brighter spots from the year. I’d like to hear
your thoughts as well.

1. Managed services
The recession put the brakes on capital expenditures as customers decided to
delay large purchases of technology. Not everyone in the channel suffered as a
result. MSPs (managed service providers), for example, saw gains. Customers
were wooed by MSPs offering to take technology management off their hands while
providing predictable monthly pricing.

2. Stimulus package
Yes, I know that government spending is a hot-button issue and many citizens
are positively outraged by the sheer amounts heading out the door in Washington. Cash for Clunkers aside, however, a big portion of
the $787 billion stimulus package has been earmarked for technology initiatives
and investments, especially around public sector engagements and in the health
care industry. Savvy solution providers are setting aside the outrage and
figuring out how they can get some of that dough.

3. Virtualization
Virtualization is all the rage. The advent of cloud computing and the desire to
cut capital expenses and own less hardware has fueled huge amounts of business
for channel playersand VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoftto
virtualize their customers’ environments. And it’s not just server hardware and
storage anymore; now virtualization is extended to everything in the data
center, most notably applications.

4. Cloud computing
Depending on your viewpoint, the emergence of cloud computing in 2009 is either
a bright spot or a sore spot for the channel. We’d like to consider it an
opportunity. From a channel perspective, there are a number of business models
to choose from: building private clouds on premises for customers, virtualizing
customer environments up to a third-party public cloud provider, reselling
vendor cloud services, being an agent. The list goes on. Where you fit in
really depends on the type of business you run and what your objectives are,
but cloud computing is not going to go away. Rather it will open doors for
consulting, integration and other high-margin work that only the channel can
provide.

5. Windows 7
Microsoft failed miserably with Windows Vista. That’s universally agreedeven
in Redmond. So this fall when Windows 7 finally rolled out there
was a big sigh of relief when the reviews were largely quite positive, both for
the OS itself and for Microsoft’s channel enablement and training prior to
launch. Windows 7 sales have been fairly brisk thus far and looking ahead into
next year are likely to accelerate as companies face the fact that they must
refresh their aging, no-longer-under-warranty PC fleets.

One of the worst business years ever, to be sure. But some good trends emerged.
I know there have to be more bright spots. Please write in and share something
you found positive about 2009 in the channel.