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Once upon a time, the only route to market for software vendors was to deploy their applications on either servers or appliances. But with the arrival of the software-as-a-service phenomenon in the cloud, the number of routes to market for software vendors suddenly exploded, and with that, the relationship between independent software vendors (ISVs) and the channel changed.

A lot of ISVs that sold their software direct emerged to challenge the established channel order. But as time has passed, application software vendors are once again looking to the channel in the era of the cloud for help.

One example is Be Informed, a provider of business process management (BPM) software, which recently announced a partnership with the IT solution provider CACI International to deliver an instance of its platform as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application for government IT organizations that will be managed and hosted by CACI.

According to Adam McNair, vice president of CACI, traditional solution providers in the channel are in a unique position to deliver applications as a service in ways that can be customized for specific vertical markets. The Be Informed business process management (BPM) platform delivered as a service, for example, allows CACI to give government agencies access to a highly customizable BPM platform in the cloud that provides a foundation for agencies within the government to more easily share information, which is one of the primary reasons government agencies are shifting more spending to the cloud.

“Rather than internally facing approaches to BPM,” McNair said, “a cloud platform facilitates inter-agency sharing of information.

Meanwhile, First Data, a provider of e-commerce and electronic payments software that was traditionally delivered on a mainframe, is now partnering with Hewlett-Packard to deliver that software on turnkey systems that it can remotely manage, which in effect turns First Data into a managed service provider.

First Data is rolling out a version of its software as a VisionPlus Flex Solution based on HP systems as part of an effort to address markets where the data needs to be hosted globally.

“We offer our service on mainframes that are hosted by us,” says Eva Hughes, vice president of product development for First Data. “Now we want to open that up to customers and HP partners that want to host our software in local markets.”

As part of that effort, First Data would then in some instances provide the managed services to run those systems.

Taken together, both these moves are examples of how ISVs in the age of the cloud are rapidly evolving their business models in ways that channel partners should expect to see increasingly replicated across the application spectrum.  And as the diversity of routes to market continues to expand, it creates a climate for channel partners to work with ISVs to deliver software to customers as a service, rather than relying solely on traditional installation of packaged applications that many customers are increasingly less interested in having to actually deploy and manage themselves.

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.