In an apparent first for the UK distributor sector, Westcoast has invested in its own datacentre as it strives to give smaller resellers a leg-up into the cloud.
Months after first hinting at the move, the distributor today finally announced a £1m-plus investment in an IL3 datacentre in Wales, with the backing of HP and Microsoft.
The facility, which draws on a range of HP server, storage and networking kit, will initially enable Westcoast reseller partners to offer Microsoft Lync, Exchange and SharePoint on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Crucially, the reseller will retain control of billing and provisioning, with Westcoast billing the partner.
Michael Clifford, HP's UK director of cloud computing, claimed that Westcoast is the "only player of its size" in the distribution sector to have directly invested in a datacenter rather than just acting as a cloud aggregator - a model favoured by the likes of Arrow and Azlan.
"I'm sure over time other distributors will [do this] as the adoption cycle speeds up but at the moment, Westcoast has got a great first-mover advantage," he said.
"This is very smart as it gives Westcoast resellers the opportunity to offer very high-grade cloud services to SMBs, something they couldn't necessarily have afforded to do. And it's IL3, meaning it is exceptionally secure."
Paul Harman, commercial manager at Westcoast, said the initiative is aimed primarily at midmarket resellers feeding the SMB market.
"For the last 18 months, distributors have all been working out what to do [with cloud]," he said. "Others have taken part in an aggregation model. Our view is that this is a channel enabler - we're enabling resellers to offer cloud solutions without the need for the upfront investment in kit made by us."
Harman declined to divulge the exact whereabouts of the datacentre, revealing only that it is a joint venture with another company. Other services, including some in the IaaS sphere, will be added in the near future, and the roadmap is fluid based on reseller feedback and the trajectory of the market, he added.
The move sees Westcoast become an HP CloudAgile partner, a programme HP launched in 2011 to reward channel partners kitting out their cloudy datacenters with HP's Converged Cloud tin.
HP's 15 other UK CloudAgile partners include larger resellers such as SCC, BT Engage and OSCL - some of which are likely to buy from Westcoast - but Harman denied they would be irked by Westcoast's induction to the scheme.
"We recognise that larger resellers and end users may have invested in cloud technology themselves," Harman said. "But I hope [larger resellers] see the potential to partner with us - where they play in the market is arguably different to the types of resellers we're really aiming at."
Asked why a smaller reseller would partner with Westcoast rather than any number of hosting providers already offering Microsoft SaaS services, Harman pointed to Westcoast's reputation and financial stability.
"We already deliver hardware and licensing to that channel - we now just want to do the same with cloud services. We are trying to make it as frictionless as possible for resellers to start offering cloud services," he said, adding that resellers can use their current credit lines to transact its SaaS offering.
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