Breaking into the Cloud the Easy Way

By Pedro Pereira  |  Print this article Print

Cloud computing has moved from hype to reality in the past few years. But how easy is it to get your business up to speed to offer these services? One vendor wants to make it very easy. Here's a look.

While business decision makers prepare to increase their investments in cloud computing, a whole army of solution providers is still trying to figure out how to seize cloud opportunities.

As with any profound change in the IT channel, solution providers have to adjust or be left behind. And this time, unlike previous channel transformations, clients may not wait for providers to get ready. A newly released study indicates that 56 percent of IT professionals at end-user companies plan to increase their cloud investments by 10 percent over the next 12 months.

The study by the Computing Industry Technology Association also found that 72 percent of the 500 IT professionals polled feel more positive about cloud computing than a year ago, after having researched and experimented with it.

So clearly, solution providers and managed services provides (MSPs) that have yet to figure out how to play in the cloud risk missing out on a growing opportunity. Of course big-name vendors such as Microsoft and Amazon are only too happy to help solution providers figure it all out – by luring them to their own cloud-based solutions.

But a lesser-known vendor from Austin, Texas, believes it has found a better way for solution providers to build their cloud businesses. You could say Artisan Infrastructure’s cloud approach boils down to this: "You decide."

Rather than playing by somebody else’s rules, Artisan partners receive a level of control that CEO Brian Hierholzer says they simply cannot get elsewhere. Artisan provides the platform on which solution providers can build, manage and control their own public and private cloud solutions.

Supported by technology from VMware, NetApp, Dell and Cisco, Artisan’s Cornerstone Virtual Private Data Center gives solution providers native controls as if they owned the platform themselves, even though they are essentially leasing. Hierholzer says this approach allows Artisan’s partners, which he calls "cloud solution providers," to keep their costs down while making more margin from the services they deliver.

Essentially, Artisan fulfills the role of virtual wholesaler, giving partners on-demand access to the technology their clients need to run their businesses. The vendor’s hands-off approach, assuring partners that it has no direct contact with end clients, is sure to resonate with those solution providers suspicious of the cloud model.

The whole idea is to give partners full control over client relationships. "We don’t even know who their customers are," says Hierholzer.

As Hierholzer sees it, solution providers and MSPs have a choice to make – continue reselling virtualization and cloud services or build their own solutions tailored to their clients.

"This is the critical point in time when MSPs really need to decide where they’re going to be," he says. "The time is now for the MSP to become a cloud solution provider and take control of their own portfolio."

Chris Boyle, president and CEO of MyITpros, Austin, already decided. Boyle partnered with Artisan almost a year ago and already has about 10 clients on the Cornerstone platform. The control Artisan gives partners over the technology, the vendor’s channel-only approach and the pricing all played a role in MyITpros’ decision to partner with the vendor. "We just felt comfortable and confident with Artisan," says Boyle.

Hierholzer says Artisan has signed up about 200 partners, a number he expects to increase steadily.

Artisan Infrastructure’s approach has the potential to change things in the cloud provider community, giving MSPs and other service providers a clear choice in how to attack the cloud market.

Judging by the interest in the cloud among end users, solution providers can ill afford to put off decisions regarding the cloud. Hierholzer is right: It’s time to make a choice.

Pedro Pereira is a columnist for Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at pedrocolumn@gmail.com.