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Cloud-in-a-box technology can turn VARs into cloud providers

Cloud-in-a-box technology is becoming more appealing to managed service providers looking to offer cloud services to their customers.

Cloud-in-a-box technology can help value-added resellers (VARs) and managed service providers quickly add cloud services -- especially cloud storage and back-up services -- to their catalogs. A prepackaged cloud offering is becoming more attractive to aspiring providers looking for a quick path to the cloud, but knowing the needs of their customers will be a key factor in determining whether cloud in a box is the right cloud strategy.

Cloud-in-a-box products often include pretested and certified packages of hardware and software that cloud providers and enterprises can deploy quickly. The solution is especially attractive to organizations that lack the resources needed to build a customized cloud environment.

Cloud in a box: Cloud providers becoming middlemen

So-called cloud-in-a-box products have traditionally appealed to enterprises looking for a quick path to developing a private cloud, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. Now VARs and managed service providers have begun to see the technology as an opportunity to break into cloud services.

Cloud in a box is not just the network, storage or servers. The technology is dependent on all of them working together.

Zeus Kerravala
Founder, ZK Research

Selling cloud services has created a different business model for the managed service provider, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. "Instead of just having on-premises equipment, which is pretty costly, the cloud model offers the opportunity to put more into applications and cloud infrastructure and broaden the range of services they can sell to their customers."

As these up-and-coming cloud providers gain customers, he noted, the pay-as-you-go or monthly subscription payment model associated with cloud offerings will prove profitable for the provider.

"The service provider will profit from cloud-in-a-box technology if their customers profit from it," Nolle added.

Pulsant, a UK-based managed service provider, is enabling VARs to become cloud providers via cloud-in-a-box technology. Instead of building cloud infrastructure and services (such as SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and cloud backup) from scratch, "many of these service providers are looking for an infrastructure partners to take all that pain away from them so they can focus their business on building the application and their channel to market very quickly," said Matt Lovell, chief technology officer of Pulsant. 

Pulsant recently announced a partnership with AppLayer, a UK-based managed service provider, in support of AppLayer's new cloud-in-a-box offering -- White Label Box. 

OnApp, a cloud, CDN and storage-software provider also equips managed service providers with IaaS offerings and cloud storage offerings to sell to their customers, said Kosten Metreweli, chief marketing officer of OnApp.

The move to the cloud is a natural progression for managed service providers, Metreweli said, noting that service providers are looking for the tools to compete with the likes of Amazon. "Since we see the cloud market continuing to develop strongly, we want to provide the capabilities that cloud providers need to deliver cloud and fast," he said.

Cloud in a box is not a one-size-fits-all option

While cloud in a box can offer an easy way to quickly ramp up cloud from the perspective of the managed service provider or VAR, it may not be the solution for every customer.

"Who the cloud provider is gearing the [cloud-in-a-box technology] to is the main question," Nolle said.Most companies benefiting from the cloud in a box are enterprises and SMBs in specific vertical markets, like small medical practices.

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SMBs, which have limited IT resources, can benefit from relying on a third party for their cloud services, he explained, noting that the cloud-in-a-box approach can offer the infrastructure that fits smaller businesses' needs.

Cloud-in-a-box technology changes the role of IT within the enterprise, Kerravala said. "Cloud in a box is not just the network, storage or servers, and the technology is dependent on all of them working together. There's a certain level of complexity associated with that integration, but if it can be removed [by the cloud provider] then the enterprise will be able to get the cloud up and running faster."

Different cloud-in-a-box technology offerings will shape the market for cloud providers, as the definition of cloud in a box will vary by cloud provider, Kerravala predicted. Some vendors will offer software-based cloud-in-a-box technology while others will tie their solutions to hardware. "What you are going to have down the road is different-sized boxes being offered from cloud providers." Providers will be able to offer their customers a turnkey, pretested cloud in a box that can be ideal for SMBs, as well as larger enterprises.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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