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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.