To the cloud: Solution providers offer cloud assessment, deployment services

As more companies look to the cloud, IT solution providers find opportunities in guiding customers through cloud assessment and pilot project deployment.

Growing interest in private cloud computing has opened the door for solution providers to offer cloud assessments, proof-of-concept deployments and management services.

More medium-size companies are looking to the cloud and deploying private clouds to improve operational efficiency and provision new applications and services more quickly. Approximately 43% of 1,240 hardware IT decision-makers surveyed by Forrester Research Inc. consider developing a cloud strategy to be either a critical priority or high priority for their organization in 2012. About 36% said building a private cloud was a high or critical priority.

"Enterprises have large investments in infrastructure and people and are just not ready to give them up," said Kevin Gruneisen, vice president of data center solutions for IT infrastructure integrator Logicalis Inc., based in Farmington Hills, Mich. "They are trying to figure out how to draw the line when it comes to the cloud."

Many organizations are dealing with end-of-life equipment as the recession lifts, and they have begun studying the cost of maintaining what they already own, investing in new equipment or opting for public cloud services. Private cloud computing addresses some of the latency and security concerns that businesses have about the public cloud, and that has created an opportunity.

Technology solution providers can help businesses evaluate the financial case for a private cloud infrastructure as well as how the private cloud approach can improve business processes, said Terry Buchanan, chief technology officer for Zycom Technology Inc., an enterprise integrator in Kingston, Ont.

"We have to shift the conversation away from the acquisition of assets to the acquisition of services that run the organization," Buchanan said.

Some organizations are using new applications as a test case for private cloud infrastructure in much the same way that businesses began experimenting with virtual servers five years ago.

"A lot of folks don't know what they have," said Alfredo Guzman, director of emerging technologies at MicroTech, a systems integrator in Vienna, Va.

"They are trying to understand whether it makes sense to move an application. There are also some apps that aren't ready [for the cloud], those that have dependencies on legacy systems or rely on huge databases. We take a look and see what they want to achieve and offer honest brokering."

Building a private cloud practice requires solution providers to straddle the worlds of infrastructure expertise and business process knowledge.

On the infrastructure side, they must pay particular attention to which private cloud options extend a customer's existing storage, server and network investments. Solution providers also need to beef up their knowledge about power and cooling infrastructure to support the higher densities that private clouds require.

But the bigger consideration is ensuring that cloud teams can speak the language of finance and business.

"Everything about private cloud is about taking a process and making it smaller, while improving the quality of delivery," Buchanan said. "Solution providers must have these conversations."

About the expert
Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist in the New York City area with more than 20 years’ experience. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. Clancy was previously editor at Computer Reseller News, a B2B trade publication covering news and trends about the high-tech channel.

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