Almost half of the respondents among the 500 channel organizations surveyed worldwide expect professional services to become their main revenue generator by 2020, according to research from Brocade. Yet, for the majority of respondents, professional services accounts for 25 percent or less of revenues today.

"This research reinforces the importance of flexible and accessible vendor programs in the channel's evolution towards successful professional services delivery," said Chuck Bartlett, vice president and general manager -- Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) at Tech Data. "Suppliers like Brocade, which was recently named Tech Data's Growth Vendor Partner of the Year, will continue to play a key role in this evolution, while innovative programs focused on partner enablement will be central to driving revenue and securing market position."

The study also revealed that in addition to direct competition, channel organizations' professional services ambitions are being restricted by a lack of innovative vendor solutions, overly complex programs and proprietary vendor technologies. It was also pointed out that many channel organizations are being impeded in their efforts to move toward cloud-based professional services due to a lack of flexibility and capability by their vendors.

The research also revealed the growing customer demand for professional services, with complexity and constraints on capex reported as the biggest customer challenges. Only 11 percent of respondents currently look to their vendors for innovative finance solutions and 19 percent for marketing fundingcrucial when trying to build a brand and reputation rather than sell on price.

"Revenue-focused channel programs like our Brocade Alliance Partner Network, combined with differentiated technology solutions that help address customers' needs for innovative and easy to deploy networks, flexible financing solutions such as Brocade Network Subscription, and tools and resources that help channel develop their reputation as consultants, will all become increasingly critical to developing competitive consultancy businesses that drive significant revenue returns," noted Regan McGrath, senior vice president -- Worldwide Sales at Brocade.

McGrath contends that to compete in the professional services sector, channel organizations now need to consider these critical questions:

-Do my vendors' strategies, vision, and approaches to technology design support or impede our ability to maximize any professional services and support revenue opportunities?

-Do my vendors compete with me for professional services opportunities?

-Do my vendors provide value through genuine technology differentiation?

-Do my vendors provide finance solutions that address customers' capex investment restrictions?

-Do my vendors provide marketing enablement, access to expertise and tools that help me build my brand?