I have a lot of sympathy for the argument for certification of cloud service providers. There are many rogue providers offering fake clouds, that are not delivering the true benefits of cloud, who are in danger of creating a bad name for the industry.
Their products are not fully on-demand or self-service and lock their customers into long-term inflexible contracts. Having cloud services certified would go some way to differentiating providers for customers.
However, certification is not the silver bullet here. Despite the good intentions of certifying bodies, certification could end up stifling competition, pushing smaller providers out of the market and locking resellers into vendor relationships.
There has been a fair amount of lobbying by associations such as the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) for formal cloud certifications to be introduced. Yet certification can be very expensive – not only financially, but also in critical resources.
Larger companies have bigger budgets and more resources at their disposal. They can often get that badge on their website quickly and easily, regardless of whether their product is good. This may not be so easy for smaller and, in particular, specialist providers.
Many channel players will have built expertise and experience in the market by delivering a first-rate service but could end up overlooked because they do not have this seal of approval.
By choosing to invest internally, in creating new services or hiring more skilled staff, they may not be able to fork out for certification as well. Yet investing internally is what helps serve customers better.
Certification may actually do more harm than good. Many providers are already perfectly qualified to deliver cloud services. In fact, they were the early innovators that have in large part built and shaped the cloud industry.
Certification could force them to divert funds from critical business operations just so they can tick things off a checklist.
There is also a lot of fragmentation in the certification market, making it difficult for channel players to decide in which certification to invest.
Of course vendor certifications are important for channel partners that are looking to deliver services, create a lasting relationship and add value.
But if the partner wants to change providers, the certification it has may then become irrelevant. In this sense, certification can reduce the ability to respond to market changes, and put partners more at the mercy of their vendors.
Instead of focusing on certification, channel players should be looking to plough funds and expertise into their businesses.
A vibrant cloud channel should be striving for innovation and dedicated to excellence.
Channel players do need to partner with vendors that will help them resell true cloud offerings that are fully on-demand and self-service. These are simple questions to ask when looking into signing with a vendor.
Customers will get more from having experts in the channel who truly understand how cloud can help their businesses, who are able to provide their own channel-branded offerings and add value through additional services.
For this to happen, channel companies need to look inwards and build those core skills and competencies, rather than simply looking to slap a new badge on the website.
Richard Davies is chief executive of ElasticHosts
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