Partners are being bombarded from all angles these days about cloud computing, and are under pressure to get onboard before the train leaves the station.
But before buying your ticket, there are some key questions you should ask, and we spoke to some of the key analysts, vendors and distributors in this space, as well as partners that have successfully made the leap, to get some answers to six key cloud questions you should be asking.
Before you jump into the cloud, make sure you consider these six key questions.
James Alexander, senior vice-president, Info-Tech Research Group
In the mid 1990’s, the internet was on the rise and many of us as VARs saw an opportunity to develop an annuity stream business. So some of us bought big pipes and built our own ISPs, others of us resold vendor offerings, and for a period of time there was good money to be made in this space. Even though it consolidated over time, we gained new customers, new skills and discovered where the new “value add” would emerge.
I see the cloud in much the same light. What it really establishes is a new paradigm for solutions delivery. It won’t replace on-premise, it’s an addition option. The new “value-add” for solution providers exists in the implementation of the cloud. Last mile cloud brokerage, integration of data and applications cloud to cloud and cloud to on-premise and security consulting and provisioning. Managed services in the cloud is open for business and the wise solution provider will take advantage of these new “value-add” opportunities.
Paul Edwards, director, infrastructure channels and ecosystems, IDC
As a solution provider, however you define that (let’s work with VARs and volume resellers in this context), cloud is right for you if you’re interested in maintaining relevance with your customers while growing your business.
To be sure, your customers are going to have some form of cloud in their organizations, whether that’s from purchasing IaaS, SaaS or PaaS, or in building their own private cloud. And since cloud is a very robust growth market this is only going to increase.
Whichever way you slice it there are opportunities for you to drive your business growth either through resale of cloud services, integrating private clouds, or helping customers with a host of other services such as data migration.
However, if you’re currently not doing anything related to cloud you should take a deep breath and take a good sober look at your business model. Are you prepared to make the investments required to take advantage of this market? Is yes, then cloud is right for you.
Jason Bystrak, director of sales, Ingram Micro services division – North America
Solution providers can make a tremendous amount of money with cloud computing, but they need to proactively develop full solutions before engaging customers. Here are a few tips:
• Start by selling an assessment to help customers determine which workloads and applications make better sense in the cloud, and include content around business process optimization as well as financial analysis.
• Develop professional service packages that complement the cloud solutions. Examples include data migration, asset disposition, or business training – the goal is flawless implementation.
• The shift to cloud creates a more complex environment, and lends itself to a managed services engagement. Add solutions to proactively monitor and manage the hybrid environment, and offer help desk services to deliver a positive user experience.
• Cloud should provide a much higher gross margin than the same solution delivered on premise. While this may take time to recognize in a monthly payment model, over time you will see higher profit and greater customer stickiness, setting up future sales opportunities”
Doron Kaminski, partner and COO, Insite Computer Group
There are many factors to look at when considering a cloud offering. Will you be offering third party public cloud services? This makes entry into the cloud space easier and less costly. However, you’re relying on multiple vendors to ensure compatibility, support to the reseller, and uptime.
Building your own private cloud environment can be costly and many areas must be analyzed. Will you be hosting the cloud in your own private data centre or in a co-location facility? Regardless of data centre type, you still need to build your infrastructure, security, storage and licensing. Outside of your helpdesk, you will require an investment for someone to manage your data centre and NOC.
Also consider what products you will be proposing and what type of support can your organization offer. There are literally thousands of cloud products available; it’s important to know the client base you’re targeting and only choose a handful of cloud offerings in order to better manage your client environments. And remember, the cloud is 7×24.
The other big transition is getting your sales team to sell the cloud. The cloud is hard for most clients to wrap their heads around and it does require a certain skill set to position cloud, not as a foggy alternative to an on premise solution but the ability to clearly communicate both the technology and benefits that are the cloud.
Margaret Dawson, ?VP of Product Marketing & Cloud Evangelist, HP Cloud Services
Cloud computing will continue to be a driving force in the enterprise in 2014, especially in areas like security, big data and open source, as IT organizations will look to the cloud to transform the enterprise amid budget constraints.
HP believes that in 2014, businesses will see their CIOs and other IT leaders strike back to ensure the organization’s applications, data and intellectual property are secure and that the business has what it needs to succeed in a competitive marketplace. Customers should also be aware that an increased number of cloud security standards from regulatory bodies will drive greater scrutiny of security records and demands for breach transparency.
HP also predicts that the hybrid cloud will become the standard deployed or planned model for enterprise IT. Organizations will also witness a greater number of wide-spread big data implementations across the enterprise, ensuring further improvements in performance, cost-effectiveness and interoperability.
Bradley Brodkin, president and CEO, HighVail Systems
The role of a “solution provider” is evolving very quickly and HighVail, as with all of our peers in the industry, has had to make several changes in our business strategy to address these evolutions. We were fortunate as our clients have been helping us to make those changes in a more natural way.
The emergence of “cloud computing” has very quickly become the catalyst of change for us. We’ve aligned our business towards the OpenStack, which mirrors what our key partners are doing. Our clients are asking us not only about OpenStack, but are very interested in the advantages of an open hybrid cloud environment that incorporates IaaS and PaaS solutions and their management. Given our legacy in UNIX and Open Systems, as well as shared (SAN) storage and multi-site availability solutions, the decision has been an easier one for us.
Our evolution has been towards the open source community and we’ve used that as the enabler in preparing and implementing our business strategy. From our perspective and experience, no one (including ourselves) has a single OS, single Hypervisor, single database and middleware platform, single server and storage vendor and that is regardless of their size. Much as we need a variety of applications (or apps on our smartphones and tablets), innovation drives many of the decisions we all make personally and in business.