by Alex Walsh, Channels and Alliances Director at Veeam

Anyone who has taken even a passing interest in developments in technology over the past few years will have been hard pressed to miss the trend towards ‘Everything-as-a-Service’ (XaaS). As connectivity has improved and computing power has become more of a resource that can be hired as opposed to simply bought, it’s led to a major transformation in how software is delivered, supported and sold. 

From box shifting to subscription signing

No longer is software a ‘one and done’ deal. Gone are the days of the interaction between customer and vendor finishing at the point at which a purchase is made. Instead, everything from cybersecurity and backup tools, to photo editing and audio production software is increasingly sold by subscription means, with updates, patches and new features added automatically as part of a single package. 

This brings convenience to customers, knowing they’ll always have the latest version and that the often-challenging processes of managing deployments and infrastructure is being managed for them. It also brings a great deal more flexibility and agility to scale the resources up and down depending on their needs. For vendors, these models create an opportunity to build more permanent, ongoing relationships with customers.

Like everything else related to digitalisation, the pandemic supercharged this trend as organisations raced to get employees set up to work remotely in a safe and secure way. With a renewed focus on the employee experience – particularly virtually – XaaS has come to the fore. Research from Deloitte conducted during the height of the pandemic, for example, found 55% of respondents said the crisis caused them to invest more in XaaS than initially planned, with 8 in 10 saying it is critical to the digital transformation of their company.

Better choice and functionality

This new environment has also given business buyers a great deal of choice, and made it much easier to drop one supplier and move to another. This means that for vendors, competition is additionally fierce. Vendors and their partner networks are constantly working to extend and differentiate the value proposition, which makes for better products and services.

While we experience more and more of our personal and professional lives through digital means, there has recently been talk of what taking this a step further could look like –an iteration of the Internet as a single universal, virtual world, accessed through virtual and augmented reality headsets. This has been called the metaverse. 

Enter the virtual world

Several companies have already made significant moves in terms of developing ideas in this area. 2021 saw Facebook rename itself as Meta, and declare a company commitment to developing the metaverse. Gaming, entertainment and fashion brands ranging from Nike to Disney are creating their own metaverse business units and making investments.

There are a broad range of use cases from event hosting to meetings and collaboration. Product and software demonstrations could take on entirely new forms and become more immersive and impactful. Bloomberg has projected the global revenue opportunities for metaverse environments could reach as high as $800bn globally. 

While a lot of the focus so far on the metaverse has been from a consumer perspective, with comparisons made to previous interpretations of this concept like Second Life – and the fact that there has been hype around virtual reality before – not as much has been said about what these platforms could do for businesses seeking to sell to each other.

A new take on customer service

It’s easy to imagine virtual reality environments being useful to demonstrate physical products or devices, for example, allowing customers to manipulate 3D imagery and learn in a different way to how a simple screen share might work. Within the IT industry, channel partners could leverage metaverse environments to communicate and meet with many customers at once and further bring down geographic and cultural distances. It’s early days, but we could be on the brink of a totally new way of approaching customer services, sales and aftercare. 

To make this all work, it’ll take an infrastructure that can handle instantaneous data retrieval and sharing, but also in a way that protects and secures that data. Metaverses are all about the real-time experience, and so having a clear Modern Data Protection strategy in place, one that can effectively manage multiple data lakes, join the dots and power a truly immersive experience, is crucial. With metaverses likely set to be interoperable, with avatars or items built or developed in one platform able to be used in another, the days of vendor-locked access will be gone. But that again requires sophisticated data management to make possible – an evolution of how we generate and manage data.

The way we sell software has already undergone one huge transformation – from perpetual licencing to subscription-based sales. As metaverses are established, and the technology needed to access and fully participate within them becomes more and more accessible, we may well see another pivot towards engaging fully in these digital worlds. And while backup, recovery and security have been crucial for many years, the metaverse will ramp things up several gears more. Those vendors with the best channel programmes know they can never stand still, and they will do well to take some time and consider what the metaverse could do for them.

Alex Walsh is Channels and Alliances Director at Veeam® is the leader in backup, recovery and data management solutions that deliver Modern Data Protection. Veeam provide a single platform for cloud, virtual, physical, SaaS and Kubernetes environments.

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