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Building clouds capable of delivering scalable, multitenant applications to
scores of distributed customers is a daunting task even for large enterprises
such as Microsoft and Google. But solution providers of all shapes and sizes
are looking to the heavens to find their place in the clouds for the next
generation of computing.

Cloud computing is the next wave for the technology marketplace. Depending
on which analyst firm you listen to, cloud computing will be a $60 billion to
$100 billion market within the next three years. Vendors that cut their chops
on hardware and software—Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM—are
racing to claim their place in the clouds. And nontraditional companies such as
Google, and Activision are finding second life as the facilitator of
cloud-based services.

While the concept is nothing new—we called it Web services and grid
computing following the dot-com bust and application service providers (ASPs)
in the ’90s—”the cloud” remains clouded (for lack of a better word) on where
traditional solution and managed service providers fit in the new paradigm. The
challenge of divining a place in the clouds is especially daunting for smaller
solution providers that lack both the capital and resources to create their own
cloud computing storm front.

Insider and HTG Peer Groups partnered to study the cloud computing revolution
in a collaboration we called “Project Nimbus.”
Our goal was to
“crowd-source” real-world intelligence and experiences of solution providers
either involved or looking to get involved in cloud computing. The first effort
of this collaboration was to tackle the tricky issue of due diligence.

While cloud computing is touted for its ability to reduce costs and increase
efficiencies, the cloud has a high barrier to entry. The required investments
in infrastructure, redundancy, staffing and market development are often too
much to bear for smaller companies. This barrier to entry is giving rise to new
partnership opportunities in delivering and selling the cloud. Project Nimbus
identified seven different cloud computing partnership models that provide
solution providers with a place in the cloud with varying degrees of

Partnering provides a path to adoption and a place in the cloud, but not all
partnerships and vendors are equal in the cloud. Understanding the nature of
the partnership, how services are delivered, what the true market opportunity
is and how you as the solution provider makes money off someone else’s services
is critical.

The Project Nimbus team drafted a white paper, “Finding Your
Silver Lining in Cloud Computing
,” which includes a series of questions
across eight categories that make up a baseline due diligence exercise. These
categories are market position and value, vendor financial health, required
investments and potential ROI, adoption requirements (organizational changes),
vendor performance track record, customer relationships (protecting your
customers), market awareness and marketing support, and legal liabilities and
regulatory requirements.

The due diligence process outlined by Project Nimbus is intended to give
solution providers directional guidance in evaluating and establishing cloud
computing partnerships. The list of questions is far from complete, and will
evolve over time. The answers to these questions will vary from engagement to
engagement, and what’s right for one solution provider may be inappropriate for
another. The important thing is that solution providers use this and similar
due diligence processes to ensure that they enter the cloud partnerships with
eyes wide open.

Channel Insider and HTG Peer Groups have
committed to moving forward with new cloud computing studies through Project
Nimbus. Treads of the group’s discussions and deliberations can be found on our
Channel Cloud
Computing blog


Lawrence M. Walsh is vice president and group publisher of Channel Insider. Click
here to read his blog, Secure Channel, for
the latest insights on security technology and policy trends affecting solution


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