While the concept of cloud computing is by no means a new thing, it was quite a shock, but perhaps not a surprise to discover just how much hesitation is still surrounding cloud adoption in the UK channel.
Perhaps we all have cloud blindness, as it is a message that so many vendors have been hammering home to us all over the past six to seven years. At every vendor conference and meeting it was cloud this and cloud that, as the bandwagon kept on rolling.
But was that mainly style over substance? Is now really the time cloud is actually going to come into its own after what many would call a less than solid start?
As we heard yesterday at the CRN Cloud Conference in America Square, the opportunity is still massive, as adoption is still very small, and customers are unsure what the cloud can actually do for them.
CRN’s own research reveals that 18 per cent of resellers we questioned currently make no revenue from the cloud whatsoever, and furthermore, seven per cent are still not planning to sell anything cloud-related to their customers by 2019.
As keynote speaker Dave McLeman, CEO of Ancoris, explained, one of the biggest challenges he had when shifting to a cloud model was ensuring his salesforce was on board with the sales structure, as it is a new way of making commission. Gone were the days of huge, one-off commission payments, to make way for a recurring, sustainable revenue stream. Not everyone survived the change, he said.
But Chris Gabriel, chief digital officer at Logicalis, also warned that the industry has to think where it is leading customers and make sure they are properly supported. “With vendors, every product they sell will need a cloud server. And even if customers end up in the cloud, we still have to run it, integrate it and manage it. The biggest challenge we have had is the ambition and understanding the potential [of cloud].”
Gabriel also made a good point about how cloud has benefitted from a weak economy.
“Cloud started to really grow just as the world started to fall on its backside,” he said. “Interest rates were non-existent so investors have pumped their money into cloud start-ups and the cloud. But when interest rates start to rise, we should be wary.”
During the day delegates also heard about the opportunities in the cloud from ConnectWise, Zynstra and Odin [an Ingram Micro division].
One of the big themes of the vendor/distributor keynotes was the automation side of the cloud and how this could affect both the channel and its customers. Automation is definitely a term to watch out for in the future.
Paul Stringfellow, technical director of Gardner Systems, said it was still far too simple to get carried away by all the cloud hype.
“It is all too easy to be the one who runs to the cloud,” he said. “It is easy to get excited about cloud and think it is everything. But in reality, customers need to understand that not everything works as a cloud solution.
“Cloud is an opportunity for us all, but our main opportunity is in the education piece – understanding what the different platforms are and helping people to get there. One of the things we have learned is that people will pay for that experience. Customers don’t want to hear about the cloud, they want to hear how we have listened to their challenges. We need to help customers understand the impact of what they are doing.
“If I can give advice about the cloud it is plan, plan, plan; plan a bit more, then test, do more testing, and then it is ready to go.”
A panel debate featuring Des Lekerman, CEO of Tig; Steve Palmer, head of cloud services at Azzurri Communications; Simon Walters, director of managed and cloud services at MTI; Paul Stringfellow and Dan Scarfe, founder of Dot Net Solutions; chaired by Adam Harris, director of Transition at Transmentum, rounded off the day.
This discussion also touched on many of the issues covered by the keynotes earlier in the day, and the challenges faced by traditional channel players carving their own cloud niche, particularly the level of investment required to become a cloud player and again the importance of picking the right niche to focus on.
CRN will be producing a cloud report later this month based on our own research figures and also encompassing the main messages of the Cloud Conference. Stay tuned to ChannelWeb for more details.
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