The ever-changing cloud market demands a variety of competencies from resellers and providers. Find out how you can partner with the right provider to capitalize on the cloud. By Colleen Frye
April 24, 2012
The ever-changing cloud market demands a variety of competencies from resellers and providers. Find out how you can partner with the right provider to capitalize on the cloud.
By Colleen Frye
Lauren Robinette is principal analyst at ACG Research, covering managed services and cloud computing. In this conversation with writer Colleen Frye, she notes that partnering with the right provider will be key for resellers and integrators to capitalize on cloud opportunities.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are the cloud provider trends that SMBs need to be aware of?
Robinette: The range of offers and investments in public cloud and private cloud is growing from your connectivity providers as well as the over-the-top providers we are calling cloud service providers. The lines are blurring and the capabilities are growing. To meet the demand SMBs have for cloud, providers have to figure out, how do I make sure I have an infrastructure offering, maybe a SaaS offering, and a platform offering? I see providers moving up to the application layer. VARs/integrators are trying for more infrastructure; they don’t have a NOC [network operations center] so they’re partnering. We will see more partner-to-partner [collaboration].
ChannelPro-SMB: What should an SMB do when evaluating cloud providers?
Robinette: Making decisions on what must be secure and available for more robust investments is a good practice. As a company evaluates what to move to a public cloud versus a private instance, [it] depends on capabilities and offers from a wide range of providers. Some SLAs have to do with connection. If you’re using Google you can’t call them, you have to put in a request. [Also], true telcos have SLAs but may not have skills to help customers migrate to cloud, so they’re missing elements. As companies evaluate cloud they should have a requirements discussion. Do we need the availability of a customer support rep for critical subsystems, and [if so] negotiate that relationship.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are the best opportunities for providers?
Robinette: This depends on the provider capabilities and investments. For example, several providers have leveraged the acquisition strategy to gain cloud expertise. In the case of Verizon, NTT, and CenturyLink, these providers acquired data center and cloud expertise by purchasing Terremark, OpSource, and Savvis, respectively. NTT also purchased a large systems integrator, Dimension Data. I believe in order for a carrier or telco to become a player offering business-critical operations, they will need system integration or change management practices to sell and migrate customers to the cloud. If you look at cable companies and most telcos, [their expertise is] connectivity. What smaller providers have to do is look at how can I get my business services on top of that; so what can smaller providers do to fill those gaps? The demand is there.
ChannelPro-SMB: What skills should providers be acquiring?
Robinette: Virtualization expertise followed by system integration skills for sales teams to support the evaluation of business-critical systems, risk, and security, as well as availability needs of the customers are two investments providers need to acquire, build, or partner to flesh out their offers. For many SMBs, the self-evaluation to go to cloud is supported by self-support providers like Google for email and even some applications if sharing is a priority. Amazon, Microsoft, and other providers offering infrastructure in the cloud offer self-provisioning but little support directly. Their weakness is in the SLAs or customer support for business-critical IT outsourcing. VARs are quickly remaking themselves to understand the cloud offers by providers and becoming more adept to support their customers’ migration. Acquiring skills on several platforms increases their ability to sell cloud offers and migrate their customers to a provider platform.
For smaller VARs and integrators, if your sales force is selling product there will be less of them next year. More customers are demanding cloud, so there is opportunity for VARs and systems integrators who own the last mile. The DNA missing from most providers is this integration. The VARs/integrators need to partner with providers.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are some pitfalls moving into these services?
Robinette: You can acquire [cloud providers] but it takes a boatload of money. You can build [cloud infrastructure] but it’s near impossible. Or you can partner. The next big wave is partnering. But when you go into partnership it better be a marriage. You can’t just be a reseller; you have to have an integrated portfolio. It’s a marriage, not a casual relationship.