By Craig Schlagbaum, Vice President - Indirect Channel Sales, Comcast
As 2012 approaches, it is time to reflect upon current business trends and consider examining new ideas for the coming year. The cloud is mentioned daily, and the buzz throughout the partner community makes this one of the hottest topic in today’s IT solutions world. Cloud offerings are one of the most fundamental changes in how IT services are delivered to customers, and this new delivery vehicle could end up being the largest shift in the channel we’ve seen in the last 20 years.
In my daily conversations with solutions provider partners, this topic always comes up. I am fascinated in understanding how partners are planning for and implementing cloud services in their business models. Several consistent themes emerge from these conversations: the impact of hosted applications in data centers and the connectivity to the cloud. Solutions providers understand that the right hosted applications must be offered in their sales arsenal, and that the data center must meet these mission critical requirements. In addition, the “pathway to the cloud" and the question of determining what is the best way to incorporate connectivity services with hosted applications are core to this. The network that brings a customer to the cloud may well be the most important component of this equation. If connectivity from the end-user location to the data center is not designed and engineered appropriately, the transition to the cloud from a premise-based solution could end with partners losing many of their valued customers due to a poor experience.
It is critical that partners consider how to “cloud engineer" any application that the end user migrates to a data center. With the cloud, the days of simply throwing bandwidth at latency or jitter problems are over. Careful thought and planning must be used when working with a service provider, regardless of class of service or bandwidth. Having a bandwidth option that contains class of service is an essential component to engineering cloud-based solutions. Each application will be different in terms of sensitivity thresholds for latency and jitter from the end-user’s location.
Additionally, forecasting future bandwidth needs is essential. If the end-user’s bandwidth requirements are going to double over the next 18 months, does the incumbent service provider have the “right sized" product set for today and tomorrow? Why go through the hassle of changing providers because you initially selected a carrier that could not meet your client’s future bandwidth requirements?
Finally, network diversity is another area that has to be considered as well. Service providers like Comcast offer totally diverse network paths from other traditional providers, and are well positioned to support the transition to cloud-based services.
Other discussions with partners involve the topic of service providers that complement, but don’t compete with what they are trying to accomplish through their cloud offerings. When deciding which service providers they are going to work with for connectivity services, solutions providers need to determine if their service provider will be selling competing applications. It is important to know up front whether or not your service provider partner will be an ally or a competitor, and they could be both.
In addition, it is time to think about partner communities that can help one another. Today, more and more IT solutions providers (VARs, SIs, MSPs) are interested in selling telecom services through a recurring revenue model because the cloud is driving this consideration. The convergence of telecom and IT solutions in the cloud is bringing service providers and traditional IT solutions providers together now more than ever. New partnerships will evolve in this space and the opportunity for the channel to grow in its influence in the carrier world has never been greater.
As 2011 winds to a close, I encourage you to start to thinking about how you can provide the appropriate services for the pathway to the cloud. It should be part of every partner’s 2012 business plan. If you don’t have an answer for this, your competitors will.
Craig Schlagbaum is the vice president of indirect channel sales for Comcast business class services. In this role, he manages Comcast's indirect channel partner team and the overall indirect channel programs for business services. Prior to Comcast, Schlagbaum managed the indirect channel team for Level 3 Communications. He has spent more than 21 years in various indirect channel roles in sales, marketing and business development with NTT/Verio, Qwest Communications, IBM Corp. and Sony Corp. He has been recognized as a top channel executive by Channel Partners magazine. Schlagbaum holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also is a member of the 2011-12 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.