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A couple of weeks ago, I mused about the role of solution and managed service providers in the rapidly evolving cloud computing world. Cloud computing is, without a doubt, fast becoming more than just a theory but a preferred reality for the delivery of applications and services. And everywhere I go, everyone from large integrators to small resellers asked about where they’ll fit in the cloud.

>> Click here to read “Managing the Mass of Clouds”

The role of VARs, solution providers and even MSPs in “the cloud” is anything but clear. Is there room for solution providers in an IT market in which they will need huge data centers to deliver services? Can solution providers coexist with vendors that provide cloud-based applications that don’t necessarily need a solution provider to sell or deliver? Can anyone make money on services that already have lower margins compared to yesteryear’s hardware and software? Can solution providers act as agents for either vendors or end users in cloud selection and delivery? And, are there true after-market sales opportunities in the cloud world?

While there are no easy answers to these questions, the impact cloud computing will have on the channel weighs heavily on solution providers’ minds. Here’s a sampling of some solution providers’ thoughts and questions about the cloud future.

Travis Fisher,
I am still not certain how cloud computing is going to shake out. It’s difficult to say that any given company will spend less money by subscribing to a service like this in the long run. In the traditional computing model, your investment gives you physical assets which people see and can more easily assign a value. In the cloud, you own a monthly payment for the rest of the application’s life and your ability to migrate your own solution to another platform is still to be determined. You will also see a lot of fighting back by the channel. To lose hardware, software and implementation fees in exchange for a few points is not going to go over well. With an enterprise app or ERP sales cycle near 180 days (or longer), few will want to invest all of that time to put money in somebody else’s pocket.

Brenda Stallings, Matrix Integration
Partners typically own the relationship with the end user. If we move to an agent of these cloud computing or distributed computing model companies, the challenge will be we, as business consultants, are only as good as the cloud vendor we’ve associated ourselves with. When these large companies (vendors and cloud providers) get involved, I believe they are less attentive to the needs of the end users. When the partner can “control” the solution and offer the products and do the services we have much happier customers.

Brad Kowerchuck, Bralin Technology Solutions
I, for one, have already looked at offerings from cloud vendors who will allow me to “own” the client, and have already done business with them before using things like Microsoft’s BPOS. For me, adding some cloud-based services has already become just another part of our “managed services” offerings to our clients. I say “managed services,” because while that is the generic term, our clients do not buy “managed services” from us. Rather, they buy our own branded services which we market and sell and which will continue to expand and add more features and value. Our clients do not even worry which of these are cloud-based and do not care when we tell them. As long as the VAR owns the client, nothing changes. However, if the VAR does not own the client, everything changes. In the latter, the VAR needs to learn to be a consultant, not a VAR. That will be OK for some and devastating for others.

>> Check out Channel Insider’s Definitive Guide to Managed Services
Matt Hyatt, Rocket IT
I believe that cloud computing will have an impact on our marketplace, but I do not believe that the impact is a “category killer” or that it will render IT support providers obsolete. Businesses face so many challenges (opportunities) related to choosing, using, measuring, improving and securing technology investments that an additional choice of delivery methods won’t put us all out of work.

Alan McDonald, AllConnected
End user’s could purchase feeling “safe” that their critical data is “in the cloud.” But they don’t think about what will happen if the cloud (really servers mirrored to other servers) isn’t there one day. I often likened managed services to cars that we drive; it is transportation we rely on, depend on and we receive constant feedback on its health through the dashboard. The question with a lot of cloud providers is “what is the spare tire?” Or, are you sure the cloud providers SLA is so good that you don’t need a spare? Among high-end cloud providers that have endured failures: Google, Amazon and other data centers that really provide the back-end for any cloud.

Stuart Raburn, TekLinks
We’re one of the fortunate few who already have data centers, fiber networks and have spent the better part of the last year “becoming the cloud for our clients.” However, we know ultimately the scale of the big clouds will inevitably garner significant portions of our clients’ needs. Whether the clouds are ultimately vertical or horizontal in nature [we suspect the former], the next game in town will likely be as professional cloud wranglers. And we thought herding cats required an esoteric skill set.

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Augustine Riolo, Knowledge Information Solutions
The speed of change is moving the channel space yet again. The good news is that those of us who have seen it before are preparing. Our managed services investments are now going to prepare for the inevitable “cloud.” Nevertheless, if I am hosting their servers, and control the desktop, what is the “cloud” going to do where the rubber meets the road. None of the “cloud” vendors can deliver services. Moreover, none of our customers are IT specialists. So, I see a bright future. At the same time, I would say the game changes every day.


Indeed, the cloud game is changing daily. Let’s keep the conversation going. Send your thoughts, questions and issues about the cloud to

Lawrence M. Walsh is vice president and group publisher of Channel Insider. Read his research reports at [CI] Perspectives.

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