As it becomes more apparent that cloud service providers are increasingly going to rely on channel partners to take their service to market, the channel as a whole is getting more comfortable with the entire concept.
According to Jason Bystrak, sales director for the North American Services Division at Ingram Micro, solution providers attending the Ingram Micro 2012 Cloud Summit conference this week are talking a whole lot less about how they are going to move into the cloud versus whether they are going to move at all.
Some of them may have to do with the cloud service providers that are now moving into the channel. Ingram announced this week that it is adding both Amazon and the Force.com subsidiary of Salesforce.com to its portfolio of cloud services. As neither organization has a reputation for being particularly channel friendly, the Ingram partnerships could signal a significant change in attitude. Of course, it remains to be seen to what degree a solution provider needs to engage a distributor to make use of a cloud service platform, particularly ones that pride themselves on their self-service capabilities.
At the moment, Ingram now has 40 vendors on a cloud line card, including IBM and Rackspace, that lists over 140 products. Other new additions to the Ingram line card include a compliance service from Awareness Technologies; CA AppLogic virtual appliance software for building cloud services from CA Technologies; professional services management software from ConnectWise; virtual hosted desktop software from dinCloud; an electronic signature service from DocVerify; an AppUMSM Small Business Service for delivering hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) from Intel; remote monitoring and management software from Labtech Software; an online ordering service from Quosal, a data protection service from Veeam; and an identity management service from VMware.
Bystrack says about 40 percent of the solution providers that the distributor engages with are opting to provide their own cloud services, which are enhanced with services provided through the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace. The other 60 percent are essentially brokering services via that portal on behalf of customers that are looking for particular services to be aggregated via one solution provider. Obviously, there’s no hard line between being a provider and broker of cloud services, so many of the providers of cloud services in the channel are also brokering services.
The biggest challenge that solution providers face in the cloud at the moment, says Bystrak, is not necessarily the technology as much as figuring out the different sales models and compensation plans required. To help solution providers make that transition Ingram Micro has doubled the number of consultants it has expected to deploy in the last year. Those consultants not only help partners restructure their business models, they will on occasion help a partner sell a particular service to a customer if asked, says Bystrack. He declined to say whether Ingram has any ambitions in terms of providing middleware services in the cloud to better integrate those disparate services. But at some point it’s logical to assume that solution providers are going to want to leverage middleware in the cloud to unify multiple cloud services.
Ultimately, Bystrack says cloud computing will evolve into a hybrid model where solution providers in the channel not only provide or broker services, but in many cases build private clouds that are deployed in data center managed by the customer. Essentially, that means there will be multiple tiers of cloud computing for the foreseeable future. And given the complexity involved with many multiple tiers of anything, chances are a lot of customers are going to look to their local solution provider to manage all of that complexity on their behalf.