What strikes me most about the cloud right now is the ‘all guns blazing’ attitude of vendors and the channel towards this (admittedly exciting) computing model. There is a sense the industry may be putting all its eggs in one basket.
I am not convinced the cloud is going to single-handedly rescue the technology sector and with it the wider economy. Conversations with our customers, the actual adopters (or not) of cloud-based services, suggest quite a different story. Most say cloud computing has not been one of their top-five IT strategies or initiatives for 2010, and many are not doing anything with it.
Are the only people talking about the cloud with such enthusiasm the ones selling it? Or is it down to the way we’re trying to sell the cloud? Instead of pushing technology for technology’s sake, the channel needs to provide clear strategy and explanation of value. Or are we just targeting the wrong people?
Many agree cloud computing offers real benefits. But it can’t be sold like software, or as an alternative to virtualisation.
I think channel partners should be thinking about how to break the cloud into manageable pieces to allow customers to embrace it in a manner and at a speed comfortable for them, not the partner.
And we need to consider if cloud solutions are right for the customer at all.
Ask what the customer’s strategic plan is – for the business as well as its technology infrastructure. Engage with the business strategy, and with those with an insight into business strategy. Only then will we know if cloud computing is a viable option, and be able to help the customer make an informed decision.
Staff must be experienced in holding conversations at this level, and it may take longer to build new relationships. How does the customer go to market? What are the cost models it uses? What are its particular market pressures? This is a business conversation that many resellers are still not ready to have, I believe.
There’s no doubt in my mind that there is next-to-no cloud opportunity today if the channel continues to engage at the level it currently does.
Perhaps it is only because of the economic environment that we have not yet seen much evidence of change. A nervous market makes investment without proven return risky, but change is necessary and it is coming.
Cloud services should begin with a service that helps customers to start their journey into the cloud, whether in a technical sense today, next year or five years from now. Consultancy is, I think, the key word.
Scott Murphy is division leader for HP and Symantec products at Bell Micro
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