Cloud computing is a reality, and it’s a force that IT professionals need to come to terms with quickly, because it is changing the way we do business. The economic and social motivation for the cloud is high, the business need for speed and agility is like never before, and the technology has reached a level where it makes prudent investments in cloud services fast and easy.
The cloud is here, but what is it, really? Where is it headed? What are leading companies doing and, most importantly, what does it mean for the channel?
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is the use of internet-based services to support a business process. Cloud services typically have the following characteristics:
? they can be rapidly deployed, so they are quick to value;
? there is little or no start-up cost and no capital investment;
? costs for services are usagebased with no fixed commitment;
? services can be quickly and easily scaled up or down with no penalty;
? services are multi-tenanted (many customers leverage the platform); and
? the ability to customise a service is limited.
Where is the cloud headed?
Investors are currently focusing their attention and dollars on the cloud. Several key players, such as Google, have huge footprints in the cloud while other established companies such as Microsoft and IBM are investing billions of dollars in cloud-based projects. Standards will soon emerge that reduce some of the uncertainties of contracting for cloud services.
What are leading companies doing now?
In many cases, new businesses will never have a formal IT function. Development/test and similar activities are a great cloud opportunity, allowing companies to reduce capital spending and related data centre costs while increasing speed and agility.
Companies that hesitate to commit data to the cloud are developing models to store production data in their own facilities, to ensure they meet compliance requirements, while leveraging massive computing resources in the cloud for processing as needed.
What does it mean for the channel?
Cloud computing is changing the way we do business. Traditionally, many hosting companies and outsourcers have been treated as the end customer, but the shifting paradigm has created a need for them to be treated more in partnership.
So, all partner organisations must determine what role they will play in enabling the business models required in today’s economy. How will you help customers improve speed and agility? How can you support your customers’ business operations at a lower cost? Customers are aware of alternatives in the market and are curious about the cloud, so the time is right for channel businesses to begin talking to customers about alternatives to their existing infrastructure. Define opportunities and work with your customers to understand what services can best meet their needs.
Now is the time for partner organisations to be driving the standards for cloud computing, rather than waiting for standards to be created – at which point, it will be too late. The critical factors are the need to focus on people, process and technology, and ensure the offering adds true value to the customers’ businesses. It’s important to make the process simple, repeatable and beneficial to your customers and your business. Identify which cloud services you can realistically offer and which organisations you can partner with to extend those capabilities.
Remember: the cloud is here to stay, no matter how you define it, so the power resides in the hands of the partner to drive it right now and capitalise on a market ready for alternatives.
Scott Morris is NetApp’s Director of Partner Sales, Australia and New Zealand, responsible for channel relationships and sales strategies. Before joining NetApp, he was the Sales Director for Dell and worked as a Channel Manager for Compaq.
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