Since 2010 was the year everyone TALKED about the cloud, I'm wondering if 2011 will be the year we actually see something happen.
It is clear that vendors are ready and eager to move applications to the cloud. It shouldn't be surprising, after a few years of tight IT budgets, that vendors are trying to revamp sales, but the cloud is more than a passing fad. It is a real opportunity for the enterprise to reconfigure their IT infrastructure with a more flexible alternative at a lower cost.
The questions that remain unanswered are how will vendors develop their routes to market for cloud based solutions and what role will the channel play?
I recently wrote about two interesting announcements, IBM and Microsoft Cloud Collaboration Service, with both companies setting the benchmark for cloud based collaboration services. Both address partners when talking about their cloud strategy, and Microsoft has been actively engaging in discussions with partners about the cloud opportunity (see here VARguy report from the 2010 Microsoft WPC). Oracle joined them with today's announcement of the launch of their an cloud based office suite.
But as Joe Panettieri points out on his post today at Talkin' Cloud (Distributors Still Sorting Out Cloud Channel Strategies), vendors are all over the place when it comes to defining a cloud business model. This in itself is not bad, it is exciting to see how distributors like Ingram Micro and Arrow are developing new and innovative business models. What we haven't seen, however, is a clear definition of the value the channel brings to these business models, with their role either completely eliminated from the model or reduced to that of a software reseller.
Even though vendors prefer not to discuss it openly, the arrival of the cloud has many wondering if the channel will have a role to play. The benefits of cloud computing include minimal to no installation and integration as well as elimination or reduction of on premises infrastructure. These are the areas where the channel traditionally adds value, so there is no question that its role will have to evolve as more companies move their services to the cloud.
What needs to happen is for vendors to incorporate the channel in the development of their cloud business model. The channel still owns the relationship with the customer and few -if any- vendors have the capacity to sell without their partners. It is a mistake, however, to think that just because the traditional role of the partner is eliminated with the cloud, that the channel will become irrelevant. The sooner vendors and distributors realize this and incorporate them into their strategy, the sooner we will actually see something happening with the cloud.