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At the Cloud Channel Summit conference, AppDirect is announcing a service through which providers of cloud service and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications can engage channel partners via a shared set of reseller management services.

Many of the providers of services in the cloud simply can’t afford to make the capital investments often required to build an extensive channel ecosystem, said AppDirect co-CEO Daniel Saks. The AppDirect Reseller Management Service provides a method for those companies to engage the channel while increasing the number of companies that have mechanisms in place to support and reward channel partners.

“For a lot of these companies, creating the infrastructure needed to support channel partners requires a huge development effort,” Saks said. “We’re trying to level the channel playing field for our vendor partners.”

AppDirect has essentially emerged as an alternative distribution channel in the cloud. On one hand, IT organizations can use AppDirect to centralize the management and acquisition of cloud services. On the other hand, AppDirect also white-labels its platform under a program through which vendors, such as Red Hat, have created an application store using the company’s platform. Longer term, AppDirect also plans to build out integration services that will make it simpler for partners to craft specific solutions.

Vendors and traditional distributors of all types, of course, have been building out similar types of services. But in addition to serving the needs of the channel, AppDirect is also providing a vendor-neutral platform that centralizes the buying and selling processes. The degree to which AppDirect can leverage that position remains to be seen.

In the meantime, solution providers across the channel will need to determine to what degree they want to be agents that receive a fee for setting up a deal for a cloud service provider versus actually taking ownership of the transaction, a recent survey from CompTIA suggests. In either scenario, the smoothest path to actually closing that transaction is the one that will most likely prevail.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.