As we close, for what many in the channel has been a busy first quarter, and head towards the first half of 2014, it seems as good a time as any to take stock. Just how well has the channel grasped the opportunities that cloud computing professed to offer and what lies in store for those that are still grappling with new business models and sales commission schemes?
Looking back to the beginning of the decade, 2010 was the year cloud computing crossed the chasm from introduction to early adoption and began its steady climb as a growth market. Key announcements took place within the year including Citrix unveiling several new cloud solutions and Riverbed introduced a cloud- intelligent WAN optimisation solution for public clouds. Cloud was at last becoming a reality for enterprises, and in turn, a realistic opportunity for resellers and IT service providers to grow their businesses. There was much still to learn, however.
By 2012, companies were starting to subscribe to cloud-based solutions because of the speed of deployment and lower costs they promised, but were far from abandoning their on-premise solutions entirely. In its Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing, 2012 Gartner suggested that many buyers were confused by all the hype, which only caused the sales cycle to slow down. For the channel, however, the opportunities were not yet turning into hard cash, despite pilot projects and the odd enterprising greenfield site. Education, for not just the buyer and end-users, but also the providers was still proving to be a vital part of the cloud adoption process. Arrow responded with ArrowSphere, a turnkey service aggregation, sales and enablement platform, designed to act as a catalyst to drive cloud adoption through the channel.
2013 saw a whirlwind of acquisitions, more talk of the growth of Platform as a Service (PaaS), Big data and mobile cloud services became increasingly important and the debate between public versus private cloud began in earnest. But still, many channel businesses remained unsure of how the cloud would deliver a long term, viable business model and how they would reward their sales teams for signing a three-year pay-as-you go contract rather than one for tens of thousands of software licences.
However, while the need to integrate cloud computing within enterprise IT solutions is now accepted by customers and providers, many channel businesses are still unsure of how they are going to transition their business to deliver cloud services effectively and profitably.
This is where partnership and collaboration between distributors and channel businesses plays a vital role.
Partnership is all about trust and building long term relationships. It’s also about providing complementary skills and support in areas where expertise could be low, or lacking altogether. Finally it’s about shared vision, goals and aspirations and the desire and will to succeed together. So what should a company that wants to build cloud into its services portfolio look for in a distribution partner?
Accessible resources, solutions and infrastructure delivered by experts who understand cloud technology as well as its implications on the business, is one of the first things resellers will need to look for in a partner. Being able to share this knowledge, understand the implications for customers and transfer these skills to its partners is not something that all distributors, however, are willing or able to do. A sound financial base and track record is also a must if you’re looking for a partner that’s going to support you through a potentially uncertain period of business growth. Finally, a clear vision of where the opportunities lie well in to the future is also key if you’re planning to deliver cloud services as part of your long-term business plans.
Most end users will inevitably adopt a hybrid approach to cloud, combining historical on-premise solutions with new cloud-based services. Resellers therefore need to choose a partner that can fulfil both of these needs and provide aggregation, finance, enablement, training and business development rather than one that has entered the channel purely to exploit the latest technology craze.
Dave Ellis is director of strategy, Arrow ECS