Remember when cloud was going to kill the IT channel?

Cloud computing is now so much part of our everyday lives that it’s hard to remember a time when this wasn’t the case. Less than a decade ago, our surveys were still throwing up results confirming limited uptake and commitment in the mainstream.

As our contribution to the bit of fun that is Throwback Thursday, we’re taking a regular stroll in the Freeform Dynamics archives

As this article from 2013 illustrates, part of the problem was an interesting chicken-and-egg situation blocking progress. Put simply, a lot of SMBs were not buying into SaaS and other cloud propositions because their trusted ‘go to’ suppliers – local resellers and services firms – were not offering them. Why? Well because there wasn’t enough demand.

Did SaaS render traditional resellers and integrators redundant?

Meanwhile, the entities that could unblock this situation – the big cloud providers – were paying little attention to the channel. Indeed, it was not uncommon to hear the notion that being able to provision a SaaS application armed only with a web browser and credit card rendered traditional resellers and integrators redundant.

As a result, some cloud providers went to market with stupidly low prices as they perceived they were in a land-grab situation with no intermediary costs to worry about. This left little or nothing in the way of margin for those in the channel, which made them even more reluctant to jump on the cloud bandwagon.

Listening to cloud providers in briefings and reading the rhetoric they often put out in press releases, it was clear that their excitement and enthusiasm was frequently accompanied by big dollops of delusion, arrogance and ignorance.

After much spinning of wheels, the cloud providers began to realise that it didn’t matter how much noise you made and the amount of impressive-looking smoke you generated, it was traction that mattered. It gradually became clear that the way to achieve this was to reduce the revs on the evangelism front and pay more attention to how deals actually get done in the real world, and particularly in the channel where (to stretch the metaphor to its limits) the rubber meets the road [groan].

In practical terms, part of the transition to more balanced and realistic ‘go-to-market’ strategies often involved hiring people with sound experience from the traditional IT vendor community. Not being blinkered by cloud religion, these individuals encouraged a more pragmatic and inclusive approach, and helped to drive a mindset of ‘AND’ rather than ‘OR’.

Listening to customers, instead of preaching to them

Along the way, cloud providers also started listening to customers rather than just preaching to them, which meant they were taken more seriously.

Wind the clock forward to today and pretty much every major cloud player, including the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce.com, now have grown-up alliances and channel programs in place to support their cloud businesses. As predicted, these look a lot like the programs that have been used for decades to recruit, motivate and enable partners such as ISVs, integrators, resellers and so on in the IT marketplace more broadly.

Some of these programs aren’t perfect, but the commitment is there, which will continue to open up the mainstream market and provide more choice for customers.

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