The 'mega-trend' of the direct sales model among large vendors has led some to the conclusion that the end of the channel is nigh. But Intel APAC regional sales director and channel veteran Philip Cronin believes the channel is facing an evolutionary period rather than a "critical inflection point" where partnering skills are made irrelevant.

"I don't believe that the end of the channel is nigh," he told ARN. "As this evolves we will see a different, but very much strong channel. "

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Cronin said that the mega-trend making life difficult for channel partners today was direct selling.

"In fact, along with the trend towards vertical and cloud-based software directly from the source, you could be forgiven for thinking that partnering skills are irrelevant in the 21st century ICT industry; that brand owners are all-important; and that channel partners have little value to add," he said. "You'd be very wrong."

Cronin said a contrarian school of thought says that we're at a critical inflection point, one that obliges even more sophisticated partnerships in order for companies to succeed.

"How easily we allow ourselves to think that the model is changing and that channels aren't relevant, when the opposite is still the case," he said.

"As you change models, more and more startup companies need a path to market. "It's a different name on the box but invariably they will need a distributor model - it's reach, it's scale, It's effectiveness."

Cronin said Intel's traditional channel partners were also going through similar transition and were understandably looking to Intel for direction.

"At the Intel Solutions Summit in Macau we had over 600 Intel partners from APJ who saw the benefits of the evolving Intel channel program," he said.

"We also announced our CHaP (Channel Access Program) for tablets, which is already enabling the channel to secure retail SKU tablets for consumers via Intel distributors. This is another great example of how we are evolving channels."

Another area where Intel is finding movement is in the rapid build-out of data centres and Cloud services.

Cronin said Intel had realised that there is a new set of customers to partner - Cloud Service Providers.

"These are fast becoming an important part of the decision-making chain for servers," he said.

"CSPs offer a Cloud-based service to corporate and government customers and are building out large data centers to provide these services."

By partnering with them, Cronin said, we can leverage the full Intel offering of hardware and software to maximize the opportunity and share of wallet.

After building channels for 16 years Cronin is confident the model has a future.

"The channel is an evolutionary place, some of the names change, but unquestionably they are replaced by somebody else doing something slightly differently," he said.

"Partnering -- it's been around a long time. It's never been easy, but it's as important today as it has been for the past 40-plus years of Intel's history -- arguably more so.

"The good news is that Intel has experience and expertise in this space -- and trust.

"Our partners are open to our insights and leadership. The opportunity is there -- it's up to us to step up and take it."