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Sometimes technology moves a little faster than most people in the channel would like. Even something as relatively new as managed services can find itself under assault from another computing model even before it has had much of a chance to establish itself.

That seems to be what is happening with the advent of both security-as-a-service and storage-as-a-service offerings. Some solutions providers can’t help but wonder if the technology gods are conspiring against them. Symantec has now become the latest storage vendor to acquire a provider of an online back up storage service. With a $123 million deal for SwapDrive, Symantec joins the ranks of EMC and IBM—offering an online back up service.

Meanwhile, a whole host of companies are now offering security-as-a-service directly to corporate customers, while a small army of carriers are lining up to do the very same thing.

This leaves solution providers in a quandary because many of the hosted services being offered by the vendors essentially compete with managed services being offered by their channel partners. In effect, the vendors are basically telling their partners that they might be better off reselling their hosted services, acting as little more than an agent rather than being a full-blown solutions provider.

Acting as an agent creates all kinds of problems for solutions providers when it comes to assessing the valuation of their companies. Companies that act as agents for others or do not have any meaningful source of recurring revenue tend to get valuations that are a lot less than those that do. The question all this raises for many solution providers is what to do when the actions of the major vendors has the by-product of essentially lowering the valuation of your company.

Other than focusing solely on consulting services, the next best choice for solution providers might be to try to beat them if you can’t join them. For example, more than a few carriers have turned to a company called Crossbeam Systems to deliver security-as-a-service. Crossbeam provides a platform that allows a solution provider to host any number of security applications on dedicated processors inside a blade center. Instead of managing security applications deployed on the customer’s premise, all the security applications are run by the solution provider and delivered as service over the network.

The good news for solution providers of all stripes is that they can essentially copy that model to create their own cloud of customized security services in the cloud.

What all this means is that solution providers are soon going to have to decide if they will be content living on someone else’s cloud or whether they will be better off building their own set of customized services delivered via their very own micro-cloud. Chances are good that customers will get tired of integrating a broad range of product specific services from different vendors pretty quickly. So while the vendor community is out promoting the whole cloud-computing concept, the ones most likely to benefit in the long run are those companies that put together the most integrated set of customized services that are best tailored to their customers’ needs.

At the end of the day, what that really comes down to is discovering which solution providers can first make the right strategic technology investments and ultimately hang in there long enough to eventually win the day.

Michael Vizard is Strategic Content Expert for Ziff Davis Enterprise. He can be reached at