Channel Elite Awards: Partners must reinvent themselves for cloud computing

TORONTO – With the evolution and rise of cloud computing and various as-a-service deployment models, channel partners are being asked to reinvent themselves and their businesses when going to market and seeking new business.

That was the message that was delivered yesterday at a seminar hosted by Ken Presti, principal analyst at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Presti Research and Consulting Inc., preceding CDN‘s annual Channel Elite Awards ceremony.

Presti referenced Wikipedia when he defined the concept of cloud computing as being, “Internet-based computing, where shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand.”

“No one knows where this industry is headed,” Presti said. “The channel is being called upon to reinvent themselves and vendors are trying to figure out where the channel fits in. Vendors want to leverage and protect their partners and partners want to know how they can stay relevant and differentiate themselves from other partners in the market.”

Partners need to make their presence known and reinforce status in the community as they go to market. This will help them gain better exposure in the marketplace, Presti suggested. Partners that also offer consulting services will also have a leg up when it comes to differentiation in the market, he added.

Based on a survey from Presti Research that included 107 channel partner participants, primarily SMBs from North America, the vast majority considered themselves “very successful” with their cloud offerings, Presti said.

Presti outlined several different sales models, including the telecom-style agency model, which is more of a voice-oriented model and “less of a VAR experience.” This model typically allows the channel to collect a commission for bringing in a customer.

Don Conaby, president of Oshawa, Ont.-based Conpute, was also in attendance at the event.

“In the computer industry, where we tend to be a jack of all trades, there’s been less concern about how viable the channel really is,” Conaby said. “On the subject of cloud computing, if you’re reselling Microsoft products, when you white label the product with your own brand, that’s when you really own the relationship because at the end of the day, we own the customer.”

The second model is what Presti calls the de-facto ISV model, where the customization of solutions is determined based on what the customer is willing to pay for, as opposed to what they expect to receive for free.

Service provider selection and contract consulting is another model, where “as cloud services become more pervasive and as cloud providers seek to maximize lock-in, a portion of the channel may function as third-party brokers,” Presti said. “Also, helping customers move from one provider to another. The interoperability among cloud providers maybe forthcoming. Maybe doing some sort of backup, not just for technical purposes, but for contract purposes too.”

Presti said customer premise specialists will still be needed, regardless of the cloud.

“The cloud reduces the need for support at the customer premise, further augmenting teleworking,” Presti said “Will this push the channel further out towards the edge of the network, into the homes of their customers’ employees?”

This opens up the opportunity for home integration practices, Presti said, because the cloud makes teleworking possible and easier. This also opens up new questions based on how things are built since there are some shared infrastructures.

Presti said we’re seeing virtual offices and companies renting out office space and satellite offices. As a result, employees from a variety of different companies are sharing IT resources. Will channel partners become more entrenched in this area, Presti asked attendees? The answer still remains to be seen, he later added.

Lastly, the industry is seeing an increase in desktop support with remote services

Whichever service model partners decide to deploy, Presti said he envisions at least for the next little while, a hybrid cloud offering where some customers will opt for cloud-based solutions, while some will still want their solutions on premise.

“Time will tell where this is all going,” he said. “Have discussions with your vendors, service providers and colleagues and make your presence and concerns known. Don’t underestimate your ability as a partner to influence the direction of this market and be ready to answer questions from your customers.”

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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