Video may have killed the radio star, but the cloud won't kill channel partners. At least not those who become cloud integrators.
Channel partners have long been concerned about what could happen when applications and infrastructure are moved to the cloud. But experts say resellers can engage in selling the cloud using the same old skills they've depended on for other IT sales.
“The fundamental skills are the same – how to engage with the client, programming, infrastructure and systems, and the need to keep up,” says Jeffrey M. Kaplan, Managing Director at ThinkStrategies Inc., a strategic consulting company focusing on on-demand services.
If there’s one thing that channel partners know, its systems integration. So who better to help companies integrate onsite IT equipment with public cloud resources?
The good news is that many VARs are beginning to understand this transition, according to Toby McDuffie, director of software product marketing at Tech Data. “If we asked VARs, a year ago whether they believed that the cloud was a threat rather than an opportunity, about 80% would have raised their hands. When we ask that same question today, that percentage is closer to 50%,” she says.
Earlier this year, Tech Data introduced TDCloud solutions and TDCloud academy, which are designed to help resellers take advantage of new revenue streams from building and deploying cloud solutions for their customers.
What it means to offer cloud integration services
A solution provider for 12 years, Dyntek provides professional technology solutions across three key areas -- infrastructure/data center, application platforms and end-points.
“When we talk to our clients about technology solutions to meet their business requirements, we take into account all the technologies on the IT landscape -- and that includes cloud,” says Jason Gordon, managing director of virtual infrastructure and storage at Dyntek.
For Dyntek, selling the cloud doesn't mean all resources live in a faraway data center and travel over the Internet. Instead it means an efficiently managed infrastructure that uses some cloud and some on-premise resources. In fact, Dyntek, a Microsoft Gold Partner, offers Office 365 through an integration of on-premise and cloud-based solutions.
Going further, Dyntek provides a methodology for unified delivery of services that addresses storage, virtualization, applications, management, network access and application access using cloud resources and working with Citrix for delivery.
Cloud integrators start with assessment
For many cloud integrators, the new channel business model means starting with helping customers assess their cloud needs and then offering migration services. To offer migration there may need to be some mixture of reselling public cloud resources and building on-premise cloud capabilities in what's known as a hybrid cloud.
Slalom Consulting, a 15-year old business technology consulting company that early on accepted cloud for the opportunity that it is, offers Microsoft Office 365, cloud computing assessments, migration and deployment.
The company works with Microsoft Azure to develop early prototype line-of-business applications, as well as mobility, application development for cloud and Dynamics CRM that can be offered both online and on-premise.
“In my practice more than 90 percent of what we do is work in advanced infrastructure, and all of it touches on cloud,” says Michael Brown, national practice area director, advanced infrastructure services at Slalom. “Cloud is a natural evolution for IT and can be a game changer for our clients.”
Companies like HyperStratus offer all of that integration plus ongoing support services.
“We might help configure a Saas offering, integrate that with existing back end systems and applications, and offer identity management, for example,” says Bernard Golden, CEO of HyperStratus.
Cloud integrators that get into a client's business early enough have the ability to plan both current integration and further expansion into the cloud.
Appirio, for example, works at all stages of cloud development – strategy, rollout of SaaS apps, migration of customer business processes to the cloud, and cloud management. The company focuses on selling salesforce.com, Google and Workday.
While Appirio's services aim to assess the current integration landscape, the company also looks to identify future integration of architecture, as well as integration for cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-on-premise. The company sells this cloud integration management as part of a monthly contract.
CloudTrigger also offers consulting and integration services for companies purchasing salesforce.com or force.com; and also offers CloudTrigger Saas products G2 Maps and G2 Analytics.
“Cloud is simpler for companies but its still not load-and-go,” says Tom Gibbs, senior vice president sales and marketing at CloudTrigger. That’s where the cloud integrator comes in. “To fully utilize the value of cloud you need an expert,” he adds.