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Valued at tens of billions of dollars, the application economy is one space in which the channel has traditionally had not much of a presence. Ingram Micro wants to change that with the formation of the Ingram Micro Preferred App Dev Network.

Ingram Micro vetted its installed base of partners to identify solution providers that have existing application development capabilities, said Greg Richey, director of professional and training services. Those solution providers can either partner with each other to build complex applications or offer their services to other Ingram Micro partners that need application development resources, but don’t have access to that expertise themselves.

“For a long time, the channel just stuck to its knitting in terms of providing services and support around infrastructure,” Richey said. “But in the last 12 months, we’ve seen a lot more interest in finding other ways to add value.”

Driving a lot of that interest, Richey said, is the simple fact that the profit margins surrounding infrastructure solutions are under pressure. Application development represents an opportunity for solution providers to add value in a way that is more profitable, Richey said.

Citing multiple industry analyst reports, Ingram Micro notes that the global custom application development services market will grow 5.18 percent annually between 2013 and 2018. Additionally, analysts predict the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market is expected to increase 25.7 percent annually between 2014 and 2020, while the total global mobile applications market is projected to be worth $25 billion by 2015.

One of the primary reasons that developing applications has become more feasible for the channel is the rise of cloud computing and the existence of lighter-weight JavaScript frameworks for developing applications such as Node.js. These frameworks also mean there is a lot more application developer talent available for the channel to tap, Richey said.

In addition, acquiring application development skills is critical to being able to make a pivot into acquiring deeper levels of expertise in a particular vertical industry, he said.

In effect, application development will enable solution providers across the channel to take more control over their own destinies at a time many of the existing business models the channel relies on are not nearly as sustainable as they once were, Richey said.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.