INGRAM MICRO CLOUD SUMMIT — Build a data center knowing that you might one day shut it down? Align with a vendor that you may one day compete with? How about build a practice with the expectation that it will not last more than a few years?
These outcomes are all possible in the new world of cloud business models, where opportunities materialize and then recede in a blink, say solution providers who attended the Ingram Micro Cloud Partner Summit in Hollywood, Fla. In conversations and strategic breakout sessions, partners shared with Channel Partners their experiences and observations on how cloud computing is changing their businesses.
One partner, for example, said cloud computing has actually elongated his cycle.
“You hear all the time how ‘cloud’ is fast — fast to buy, fast to turn on and fast to leverage,” said one cloud services reseller. “But since cloud solutions can touch so many departments simultaneously, getting buy-off and approval from all parties before closing a deal is lengthening my sales cycle.”
Other solution providers told Cloud Partners that they are applying lessons learned to their burgeoning cloud operations. Several said they achieved greater momentum when they divided their sales forces and assigned responsibility for cloud sales to a dedicated team.
“When we had all of our salespeople carrying quota for the cloud, I thought we would get greater momentum,” said one solutions provider. “But the team sold what they knew, which was traditional, on-prem products. When we created a team of cloud-only sales people, our cloud sales grew, but our sales management become more complicated. We’re still trying to figure out account management so we don’t overwhelm customers.”
Cloud business models are turning out to be more fluid that previously predicted, others added. And more ephemeral.
“The cloud is too often thought of as a single, monolithic thing,” said Craig Teahen, vice president of information technology with All Covered. “But it is really lots of different solutions to solving a lot of customers problems.”
In a main-stage presentation to attendees, Teahen described his company’s evolution as a managed services provider and cloud company. Founded in 1997, it developed a managed service practice in 2006. It built its first network operations center (NOC) in 2007 and then launched its first cloud practice in 2012. Along the way, it acquired more than 20 different companies to round out its capabilities. Afterward, it found itself with 19 data centers scattered around the country. Management and oversight of these NOCs was expensive, so All Covered tried to develop some standards by rationalizing its portfolio of products and capabilities.
When it entered the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) business, it opted to “white label” another company’s cloud offering. But the service didn’t provide All Covered with the flexibility its clients required and the margins it desired. That led the company’s management team to opt for building out its own capabilities. The company built a FlexPod platform and today manages the entire stack. But rather than spread these capabilities over 19 different locations, it is reducing the number of data centers that it operates to a more manageable two.
“Sometimes it makes more sense to partner, and sometimes it makes better sense to build,” Teahen said.
His advice to fellow solution providers? Offer continuity between the old world of traditional, on-premises computing and the new world of private, public and hybrid clouds. If you can help customers make the move between the two worlds seamlessly and transparently, he said, all the better. And seize opportunities when they present themselves. All Covered, now a division of Konica Minolta, signed a number of customers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he said. Finally, he said, think flexibly.
“We’ve opted to build our own. But may it make sense at some point not to own our own data center, [given the way the economics are going today]? It may. And if so, then we will adjust our business accordingly,” he said. “When it comes the cloud, there is no one answer or business model.”
Another Ingram Micro partner also espoused the virtue of flexibility.
“Our company traditionally sold to companies with between five and 200 customers. But now that we are selling in the cloud, we are able to sell to larger customers,” said David DeCamillis, vice president sales and marketing at Platte River, a Denver-area solutions provider and Channel Partners 360 Award winner.
Working with Ingram Micro, it has been able to focus on the services and capabilities that it does best, and rely on Ingram Micro for additional capabilities. “Ingram provides huge help vetting vendors and products, and aggregating capabilities,” said DeCamillis. This helps Platte River work more flexibly.
Although its core offering, the Intuition bundle of services, is its own custom platform, Platte River is always looking at ways to expand as its cloud business grows. The company is taking a look at technology from Box, for example, so it can provide SharePoint-like capabilities to a broader set of customers. It is also looking at virtual desktop technology, though not quite ready to make the move due to the price.
“The point is that we keep moving, keep thinking about new capabilities, and business models. The cloud keeps you constantly fresh in other words,” he said.