Selling cloud services is no easy feat and finding ways to do so successfully can be a challenge. Dimension Data, one of the largest and best known channel partners in the world, recently acquired cloud provider OpSource, boosting its own cloud services portfolio and enabling smaller partners to resell its infrastructure and applications.
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The acquisition marks a trend in the way that channel partners approach the cloud. They fall into two camps: Those that build their own infrastructure and become cloud providers and those that sign on to partner with the providers.
In addition to the OpSource acquisition, Dimension Data also announced the inclusion of managed Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Lync 2010 cloud services from its cloud. With this expansion, Dimension Data provides public, private and hybrid cloud offerings in addition to managed messaging, collaboration and communication apps.
Dimension Data's cloud services are delivered on its Managed Cloud Platform (MCP), a managed cloud delivery platform comprised of storage, servers, virtualization, networking and operating system software. Together, Dimension Data's cloud partners can offer complete hosting infrastructure, apps and integration consulting.
"Dimension Data is making a big bet on the cloud and going through a transformation process in order to accommodate the new challenges the cloud represents. [It] recognized that in order to keep pace with the changes going on in the marketplace and the business implications of the cloud, it needed to acquire additional assets like OpSource in order to deliver a new generation of services," said Jeff Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies.
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"Our initial offering with our cloud services portfolio is compute or Infrastructure-as-a-Service, where we make a vast array of computing power available to both enterprises and service providers in a manner that they want to acquire -- whether it be public, private or hybrid cloud," said Jim Hirt, vice president for the North America services business at Dimension Data.
"With this, service providers can deploy globally to cloud exchange, where we can actually have different managed cloud platforms interact with one another. We bring that to the enterprise and service providers as a service so they don't have the capital expense, and it can scale to considerable size," he said.
Dimension Data's partners resell these enablement services and applications, in turn becoming cloud service providers.
Now Dimension Data and its partners will help companies address the crucial questions that come along with cloud deployment: What are the applications? Are they appropriate for the cloud?
"We have a program coming out in July that will focus on the total enablement. It's a program that deals with marketing support, sales enablement, billing support, contract services, etc., so a service provider can be ready to go with their subscribers under their brand," said Hirt.
Dimension Data aims to combine professional services, infrastructure and applications for the cloud.
"Surrounding the OpSource acquisition are the professional service capabilities like upfront consulting done with the customer to help them sort out what their requirements are and select the best options. Then there is also the product resale. Not only are you reselling a Microsoft service, there's additional equipment required in private cloud deployments, which the folks at Dimension Data already have access to because of their established vendor relationships," said Kaplan.
Dimension Data cloud portfolio expansion: Tools make it simple for partners
At the core of Dimension Data's MCP is CloudControl software that enables provisioning, metering and billing for cloud services. "This can enable the service provider to deploy cloud services for their subscribers in an OPEX versus a CAPEX model," said Hirt.
"A service provider can spend lots of capital and hope they can sign up subscribers and begin chipping at that expense. Or they can sign up for [this] service that can come to them in a 60-day deployment with a considerable scale, pay for it as they go along and add subscribers. It's a much more friendly cash-flow situation."
The idea is to provide an easy-to-implement cloud services model that partners can jump into with limited heavy lifting. "Dimension Data serves as a distributor to smaller partners who don't have the same access to the portfolio of products and vendor relationships to be able to obtain those products in a cost-effective fashion. They will serve as something of a cloud procurer or aggregator," said Kaplan.
"The most important point is what Dimension Data is demonstrating in that there is a very substantial role that can still be played by relatively traditional channel partners if they take a new look at their customer and partner requirements and add new layers of services and value to their portfolios," he added.
The good news for partners is that the cloud "does not have to mean the disintermediation of the channel, but instead can mean a new chapter in the evolution of the channel in the technology of services marketplace," said Kaplan.
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