Distributors will only have a role to play in the future cloud computing world if they can add quantifiable value to the deal, according to speakers at CRN's Cloud Computing Forum this week.
Paul Eccleston, managing director at distributor SDG (pictured), said the race was on not only for resellers and distributors to educate customers about the benefits of cloud, but for them to evaluate their own future strategy and business model accordingly.
Distributors, he said, will still have a role, but only if they adapt sufficiently to the new paradigm and manage to offer something their vendors and resellers cannot.
"Distribution's role will be to take those [customer] requirements and help fill the gap, to bridge the different parts of a solution – the parts that their channel partners cannot, for whatever reason," Eccleston said.
This is possible, he said, but it will not be easy. Distributors may need to consider whether to form a special unit to tackle the transformation of their business model and initial delivery of their cloud-focused offering. They may also have to take on the task of resourcing and "de-risking" smaller channel partners' forays into cloud where the cloud service vendor cannot.
"[For example] look at VMware's portfolio for 2011. It's already so complicated. And if you're a channel partner, to deal with all of that is a pretty tall ask," Eccleston said.
Other speakers agreed that each link in the cloud supply chain will need to be able to clearly justify their own place in it – both to other links in the chain, as well as to the end-user customer – and be able to build profitable margins based upon that value.
"We see distribution as having a role. We see a role for distribution in bringing together the right solutions for the end customer. But it is definitely a matter of where you must add the most value," said Jacqui Davey, vice president, IBM Business Partner Organisation, UK and Ireland (pictured)
Simon Howitt, channel business unit director at cloud services specialist Outsourcery, said: "Our success is going to be linked to the success we can help bring to our channel partners."
Howitt added that most customers are already looking for help around cloud, even if it is only education on the options and suitability. Channel partners – including distributors – need to be able to offer that and then support them on the long journey to cloud-readiness and beyond.
And for channel partners, including distributors, to be authoritative on cloud, they would need to have travelled that way themselves, he said.
For more on this story see the 11 July issue of CRN magazine.
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