Theres value in the Cloud

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Denise Bryant, UK managing director, Magirus.
Cloud computing continues to receive considerable interest amongst the business community. With the promise of lower capital expenditure and pay-as-you-go or pay-as-you-grow pricing, its easy to understand why.  According to industry analysts the journey to cloud computing represents one of the largest market opportunities in the past 10 years. Gartner predicts the global market to be worth more than $150 billion by 2013, while Merrill Lynch puts it at more than $160 billion by 2011.
denise bryant
Whichever organisations figures you believe, one thing is certain: the market opportunity is huge and it is one the channel cannot afford to ignore. This is not simply because of the rich pickings afforded by new technology but because it is likely to determine how applications and services will be delivered in the future. The IT landscape will shift dramatically and that change has already started.

Data centre market discontinuity
The seismic shift in the data centre market is comparable to the transformation of the business telephony market when it moved from traditional analogue and digital telephony to VoIP. What we are witnessing is a similar sea change as the market transitions gradually from traditional premise-based data centres to unified offerings and eventually to cloud computing.

The market opportunity is vast. As enterprises look for expertise and guidance on which business model and services they require, there is a definite role for resellers to play.  First, resellers need to decide which model best supports the needs of their customers i.e. Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Application as a Service (AaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Secondly, which services do they wish to be cloud-based or remain on-premise? These include: storage; database; integration; information; process; security; governance and testing.

Of crucial importance is how these solutions will fit into a customers existing IT infrastructure. Resellers should not look at these models in isolation: they have mutual inter-relationships that have to be taken into account.

For many resellers the shift to unified data centres and cloud-based systems will appear daunting. Customer relationships must be transformed from low-margin stock and shift to high-value strategic partnerships which generate high-margin, recurring revenue. This means resellers must adopt strategic consultancy skills and position themselves as trusted cloud providers for their customers.

Collaboration is essential
Resellers will need to take proactive action now to work with established vendors and distributors. Only by adopting a collaborative approach between reseller, distributor and vendor will resellers be able to de-risk entry into the cloud computing arena.

To fast track resellers into this lucrative market space, it is necessary to work with a distributor that takes a more consultative approach, providing the training, accreditation and support services they will need to get up and running. For example, a reseller may white label a distributors accredited staff. In this way they may proactively plan the training of their workforce and not worry about losing business now and have to pay all of their training costs up front. The first areas ripe for resellers to attack are backup, data storage and recovery, followed by converging, network-centric server technologies with virtualisation and storage, to create a unified offering.

Best-of-breed testing
Performance modelling and testing is a must for would-be cloud customers. By way of example, to help in this process, at my company we created a Solution Centre where resellers are able to book sessions to illustrate to potential customers the benefits of a given solution. This is important because customers rarely have the opportunity to see a solution demonstrated, where they can appreciate for themselves not only the tangible business benefits but how a given part of the system fits into the bigger picture. In this way, both the reseller and end customer embark on the journey together.

Demand exists now for this new breed of trusted reseller. It will be the early adopters though who stand to reap the biggest rewards. They have the opportunity to forge long-lasting relationships with their customers; helping them to save costs, converting large, capital-intensive outlays to money-saving, variable costs, while working with them to create something unique to differentiate their business.

As with any technology transition, those that get in early, establish themselves as experts and then as a trusted partner, will be the ones who survive and thrive. Why is that important? Well firstly, there is money to be made but, more crucially, data centre resellers need to position their businesses for the future. In the brave new world of the cloud where servers are invisible and applications are delivered by a pipe, the channel as we know it will be very, very different. And yes, there will be casualties, especially amongst those who are less fleet of foot.

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