How to resell cloud storage services

Find out what the two main options are for resellers who want to get involved in cloud storage services but don't want the risk and cost involved with developing their own services.

In our last Channel Spin article, "How to become a cloud storage services provider," we laid out the steps to take to become your own cloud provider; our article "Become the Cloud" also has a lot of good ideas on that front. But for a large group of resellers -- maybe you're one of them -- the thought of becoming the cloud is daunting; they'd rather resell the cloud.

For many companies, reselling cloud services makes much more sense. Becoming your own provider requires a significant upfront investment in infrastructure, and maintaining that infrastructure won't be cheap. Beyond cost, there's competition: The field will be crowded by some very large organizations with decades of hosted service experience.

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So if you're among the group of resellers who want to get into cloud services but don't want to take the risk of developing your own services (and don't mind passing on that venture's potential reward), your first option is to look for infrastructure suppliers like Iron Mountain, Axcient and Nirvanix that sell an appliance to be installed in the customer's location. Someone needs to install all of these devices; it might as well be you. Some of the vendors also have channel inclusion programs that allow reseller partners to participate in the solution. For example, they may provide you with a dashboard with a view of the status of a customer's backups or its archive usage. This means you could sell the appliance, do the installation and then monitor and maintain backup and archive for your customers.

The second, possibly complementary option is to adopt software from ISVs -- such as Atempo and Mimosa -- that are supporting cloud storage through the use of a cloud storage provider's API set.

These API sets allow the software developer to take advantage of the provider's cloud services. For example, some will allow the software application to set how long a file or backup is retained, how many copies of the file or backup are kept and whether the file or backup needs to be set to read-only. The software developer can present these capabilities to the GUI, which you could fine-tune for a customer's needs.

This option enables storage resellers to continue to do something they've done for a long time: install and integrate applications such backup, email archiving and file archiving. To the application, the cloud is just another target device like tape and disk. Using ISV-developed software also allows you to develop expertise around how the software ISVs are interacting with the cloud and how to best use their products. And, depending on the relationship between the cloud provider and the ISV, there may also be profit dollars for the channel.

The cloud is not something that can be ignored, and while the term may be overhyped, it's not just a phase. Resellers need to decide early on what their strategy is going to be toward cloud storage. They can provide it or they can integrate it, but they'll have to do something with it.

About the author

George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the United States, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, George was chief technology officer at one of the nation's largest storage integrators, where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

This was first published in September 2009
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