Cloud Computing Brings Challenge, Opportunity in 2009By Pedro Pereira | Print
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There is no question that the cloud will grow as more companies gravitate toward pay-per-use services, keeping IT vendors and their partners on their toes. SAAS, virtualization and managed services will all grow in 2009.
The IT forecast for 2009 is decidedly cloudy. Cloud computing, fueled by software as a service, virtualization and managed services, will become a bigger part of the business of IT solution providers.
As the economy continues to stall, the appeal of pay-per-use IT services built around virtualization, managed services and hosted software will grow.
Companies large and small will become more and more dependent on cloud-based technology, eschewing servers within their networks in favor of applications hosted at outside data centers. This is already a fact of life at many small companies, and look for the practice to extend to businesses with hundreds, even thousands, of employees.
But not all companies are just going to shut off their servers and rely entirely on the cloud. Far from it. So there will be plenty of integration work to meld disparate cloud applications with legacy systems, posing a significant challenge for companies that embrace the cloud. The same goes for securing the applications as they move around the cloud into the private network.
These developments are pressuring solution providers to quickly become conversant with integrating SAAS applications and implementing stringent security policies to prevent breaches in their clients' networks.
For the channel, cloud computing is a threat and an opportunity. Nothing new there, when you think about it. Every time a new IT trend gains momentum, one of the common side effects is tension between solution providers and vendors.
IT vendors tend to act in relation to market trends the same way water acts in an enclosed area when it tries to find a way out. The problem is that in their rush to capitalize on a trend, vendors often create a bottleneck of confusion, forcing their channel partners and customers to waste energy on separating marketing bombast from substance.
Ultimately, the vendors that perform best in the cloud will be the ones that promote programs and services that empower solution providers to make sense of it all for their customers. When you look at the crowd of vendors vying for a piece of the cloud, including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Google, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, it doesn't take a genius to figure out, based on their track records, which are more likely to play nice with solution providers.
But just as solution providers face challenges in seeking to capitalize on the cloud, so do vendors, including the most channel-friendly among them. Vendors have culture to contend with: They have infrastructures built around the traditional ways of delivering technology, and management at large vendors tends to move with the speed of a turning aircraft carrier in embracing new market trends.
So don't be surprised if a scrappy new vendor emerges as Cloud King. Most likely, leadership in cloud computing will come from a services-centered company rather than a traditional vendor.
Integration expertise, of course, will be key,
and that puts companies such New York-based services provider Bluewolf in the
running. Another potential area in which a company could distinguish itself is
the platform-as-a-service trend, or PAAS. Here Salesforce.com
already has an edge, but keep an eye on companies such as StrataScale, which is pushing the envelope by emphasizing speed and flexibility around software-on-demand deployments with its IronScale platform.
Whichever vendor grabs a leadership position in the cloud, it will need solution providers to reach the myriad customers whose needs are best served by providers that become intimate with their IT systems and business goals. Solution providers that master the cloud can expect opportunity to rain on them even through the ongoing rough economic ride.
Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for Channel Insider.