Partner Education, Customer Buy-In Ease As-a-Service Sales
Cloud continues to capture the industry’s imagination and investment due to its transformative impact on the delivery and consumption of technology. Momentum is expected to continue in 2013 as more businesses large and small buy into the as-a-service model. This will ease channel sales next year. However, the tremendous potential of this nascent market has attracted big brands and startups alike, creating a fragmented supplier base and complicating provider selection for channel partners and their customers. From assessing needs to picking providers to migrating workloads, the complexity of cloud presents a growing opportunity for channel partners.
Market Opportunity. There are many predictions for the growth of the cloud service market. Most focus on public cloud services, but last year Forrester Research broke down its 2020 worldwide forecast as follows: $159.3 billion for public cloud, $66.4 billion for virtual private cloud and $15.9 billion for private cloud. That’s a total cloud market of $241 billion by the end of the decade.
Gartner’s public cloud forecast, released in September 2012, put the market at $109 billion in 2016. North America will account for the greatest growth at 61 percent from 2010 through 2016.
Even closer to home, CompTIAs Third Annual Trends in Cloud Computing study indicates that the market for cloud solutions in the United States is robust, with the number of organizations using cloud resources rising for the third straight year. More than eight in 10 companies currently use some form of cloud solution, and more than half plan to increase cloud investments by 10 percent or more in 2012. CompTIA’s study found one in five companies are contracting with channel partners to aid their transition to the cloud.
Industry Predictions. Cloud computing and communications analysts, providers and channel partners predicted growing traction for all cloud services, but hybrid (public/private) deployments in particular, in 2013. Mobile access to corporate IT assets and applications will be a primary driver. Security, however, is expected to overshadow all cloud discussions and deployments.
“Hybrid environments will continue to be the preferred method of consuming cloud in combination with existing infrastructure and technology especially in larger organizations while small businesses will lean more towards a cloud-centric model.”
Gartner’s Tiffani Bova
“The smartphone and tablet explosion will force more and more companies to give their employees access from multiple devices securely, which will drive the desire for virtualized and cloud environments.”
FusionStorm’s Jason Kraft
“Security will play a big role in cloud computing this year, and one of the biggest changes we’ll see is organizations starting to engage in predeployment validation of network devices, firewalls, ISPs, cloud providers, etc.”
Ixia’s Bob Usher
Channel Opportunities. As expected our panel cited growing demand for cloud collaboration, contact center, disaster recovery, storage and basic business productivity apps as low-hanging fruit for channel partners addressing the space. Surprisingly, more of their comments focused on business model transformation from defining cloud roles to moving up the customer value chain.
“[Cloud] is an opportunity for high-margin, high-value solution selling as well as a reason to call on and engage with line-of-business executives who see cloud as a means toward reinventing their business.”
IBM’s Angela Trillhaase
“Channels will finally realize their roles as consultants/business process advisers, or integrators or aggregators or ‘plain vanilla’ cloud deliverers.”
Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal
“Cloud solutions will continue to enable channel partners to increase their value-added perception in the marketplace as well as help them stay relevant.”
Black Box Network Services’ Dave Halpin
Channel Challenges. The promise of cloud will only be realized by partners who can overcome a number of significant obstacles presented by this still-evolving marketplace. Chief among these is a steep learning curve not only for the solutions themselves but how to sell them and to which decision-makers. A twin challenge is determining a go-to-market strategy and finding the right partners. Finally, our panel cited continued fears of disintermediation from vendors-turned-providers.
“[A challenge for channel partners is] providing solid overall solutions from different vendors (to include management tools, analysis tools and cloud solutions) and having all of those vendors work together while still getting paid by each.”
Teleproviders’ Jo Peterson
“The ongoing challenge that channel partners face is making sense of the cloud space and strategy in totality. This includes but is not limited to understanding the dynamic cloud market, the cloud suppliers and supply chain. the solutions for clients just to name a few. Take these challenges and throw in market evolution and the hyper-speed of product and service cycles, and you begin to sense the picture of this perpetual change.”
Telecom Advisors’ Dan Vidal
“Channel partners will have to aggressively develop outbound sales capabilities to compete with the vendor direct sales channel … to prevent being cut out of the distribution chain.”
Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal