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Historically solution providers in the channel tended to align themselves with one major computing platform or another. Given the complexities of setting up any particular server platform, that approach made a lot of technical and economic sense even if it did tie the interests of a solution provider to a particular vendor.

But in the age of the cloud solution providers will be free to pretty much do as they please. In fact, as long as a cloud computing service can support a particular application, the underlying platform that application is running on becomes less relevant. In fact, the customer might not even care that much what particular cloud service their application is running on as long as the solution provider can guarantee a certain level of performance.

Given those dynamics solution providers should pay a little extra attention to a new Terra Cloud Catalyst initiative launched this week by Akamai Technologies. According to Neil Cohen, Akamai vice president of product marketing, the goal behind Terra Cloud Catalyst is to essentially create a published application programming interface (API) that solution providers can leverage to invoke the Akamai content delivery networks (CDN) from within any cloud computing platform.

Akamai has been setting up a number of alliances with cloud computing providers, including Rackspace, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. But the Terra Cloud Catalyst initiative takes that one step further in terms of making the Akamai CDN more easily accessible. As IT organizations move into the cloud many of them are discovering that the best way to optimize performance is to cache certain Web pages locally. Most cloud computing platforms are centralized around a small number of data centers so the Akamai CDN makes it possible to distribute content as close to the place where it is being consumed as possible.

In effect, Cohen says Akamai takes away the distance penalty that is often associated with cloud computing service that are running on a handful of centralized data centers by offloading video or static content that is more effectively delivered via a CDN.

In that kind of cloud computing model the most important thing is that CDNs give solution providers leverage. They can use a CDN to enhance the performance of multiple cloud computing platforms, including their own should they choose to build one. If they don’t like the terms and conditions being offered by one cloud service provider, the fact that they have a CDN to rely on makes it easier to switch providers without having any material impact on performance. In fact, as long as content is being effectively served, the customer may never know the solution provider switched cloud computing platforms.

What makes cloud computing truly compelling for solution providers in the channel is that it creates an infrastructure resource that is theoretically infinite in size. Solution providers can dynamically choose where to run any given application workload, which essentially means the role of the solution provider changes from being one where they primarily built IT services to one where they orchestrate the delivery of those services. More importantly, it also means they can start having conversations about building new types of applications that were previously not cost effective to build and maintain.

Cloud computing will ultimately change the way solution providers see themselves and their customers assuming, of course, they make the right moves today that will make sure they stay in control tomorrow.