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The IT industry lately has had its head in the clouds. Not a day goes
by that the term “cloud computing” doesn’t cross my screen or come out
of somebody’s lips.

But is all this talk about cloud computing just a lot of condensed air?
Or is it really a new wind blowing us into the future of computing?

Now, if you are one of thousands of people who suffered through the two
outages of Amazon.com’s cloud-based storage service in recent months,
you are forgiven for having serious doubts about the whole thing.
Nothing is more effective in adjusting your thinking about a technology
than a failure that leaves you hanging in the wind. And, let’s face it,
this industry has a history of over-hyping technologies before they
really are ready for consumption.

But while the hype about cloud computing is undeniable, it would be
unfair to lump it into the category of “not yet fit for consumption.”

After all, you can shape this cloud however you want, and it’s all just
a matter of having the knowledge and expertise to figure out how to do
it. Cloud computing, which in some cases incorporates SAAS (software as a
service), consists of the multitude of applications accessible to
users over the Internet.

But accessing the technology doesn’t necessarily make you an expert at
it, and while plenty of end users will figure out how to tap technology
in the cloud to customize applications, plenty more will need someone
to make sense of it all for them.

In comes the channel, where cloud computing may well become a way of life for some.

As with any other technology trend, solution providers no doubt are
treading carefully, lest they get hopelessly lost in the fog. For every
technology that has turned out useful and profitable, there is at least
one that has gone the way of the DeLorean. (Not sure what that is? More
clues coming.)

As usual with over-hyped technologies, there is some confusion. Cloud
architecture is behind a lot of peer-to-peer networks that make
software available for free, so channel companies can be excused for
wondering how to make money in the cloud. On the other hand, cloud
computing gets confused with the utility model, with which it overlaps
and through which software services are billed to customers like a
utility.

So solution providers have to wade through the confusion and keep a
sober outlook about cloud computing. If they manage that, providers
should conclude that cloud computing is a vehicle for expansion. They
have the opportunity to reach into the cloud to add to their service
offerings.

If they don’t, someone else is likely to. And that someone else will probably be, you guessed it, Dell. Or Oracle. Or Google.

But solution providers, at least theoretically, have the most intimate
knowledge of their clients’ systems. They should have a good handle on
their clients’ businesses, technology requirements and strategic goals.

Armed with that knowledge, solution providers will be better positioned
than any vendor to pull together the myriad applications floating in
the cloud and integrate them into the IT environments of their
customers.

Sure there is some work to do, if you haven’t already. But get it right,
and you won’t be riding that DeLorean backward into the future of
technology.


Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and a contributing
editor for Channel Insider. He is at
pedro.pereira@ziffdavisenterprise.com.