We've all seen the stats. The opportunities for resellers to offer true cloud offerings are huge. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is the fastest-growing segment of the market.
Over the past three years, I have talked to a lot of our channel partners about how they believe cloud can enhance their business offering and help their clients use IT more effectively.
Some resellers told me that virtual private servers (VPS) can deliver the same functionality and benefits as true cloud services, for example. Others, however, do not fully recognise the difference between VPS and cloud or indeed appreciate the benefits and possible use cases for a true cloud-based IaaS.
I thought it was time to clear up some misconceptions so those resellers that genuinely want to capitalise on cloud ensure they are offering a true cloud solution and not just a VPS model.
While a few of the larger SIs and services providers have chosen the route of building their own cloud services from scratch, a large proportion of resellers have yet to develop a true cloud offering.
This is because it takes a huge investment in cash and time – resources most resellers just don't have. As a result, many are still evaluating the market, battling with marketing hype and vague promises of what cloud is and is not.
When you start to look at how organisations can benefit from cloud computing, you will see that services providers need to move beyond VPS.
VPS suppliers have tended to provide low-cost services to customers for long periods, paid for monthly or annually. Sadly, these services often fail to deliver enough value-add in terms of flexibility or additional services that can be used with VPS.
For users who want cheap options to serve simple or static demands, VPS can work – but for users requiring flexibility or added value, IaaS is better.
I wrote this article on the day of the Wimbledon men's semi-finals, and was reminded by a certain international IT services provider that detailed statistics of every match being played are collated in real time.
That equates to 100,000 points of data during the tournament. This data is combined with other information such as the distance moved by each player, and social media posts, and passed to the press and the public.
Huge volumes of data will be processed, but afterwards both the data and the processing requirement disappear. In this rather extreme example, traditional VPS could not adapt, whereas IaaS platforms are designed to do this kind of provisioning and de-provisioning.
It's not just about volume, however, it's also about speed and being able to react quickly to changing business needs.
It is not unusual for VPS providers to take anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours to provision infrastructure, yet IaaS providers typically achieve this in between 15 seconds and three minutes.
When an online retailer needs to manage soaring demand in the run-up to Christmas, it can add capacity easily, every day or every hour as the customer load increases.
A week before Christmas, load may drop sharply and peak again with the post-Christmas sales. An online ticketing agency selling tickets for a key event will experience a surge in ticket sales in advance, similarly, but return to the usual levels of resource requirement between major events.
For systems developers carrying out load and performance testing, IaaS platforms allow them to easily scale and test a website or application for potential bottlenecks.
Additionally, IaaS is a useful way of automatically generating "real" user load on services, to allow each to be fully tested end to end. VPS does not have the flexibility or agility required by system developers to meet load or performance testing.
IaaS has additional benefits for end users. It can be more cost-effective than traditional infrastructure, offering metered consumption on demand.
Along with the ability to quickly provision resources at scale, a single management system can help resellers improve efficiency – rather than give themselves more administrative headaches.
By white-labelling a fully compliant multi-tenancy IaaS, resellers can enjoy higher usage ratios and increased margins. The increased resilience and elasticity of rapid provisioning and de-provisioning can benefit many smaller services providers too.
This allows them to expand their SLA capabilities and enhance their offering.
Creating a cloud datacentre from scratch is not feasible for most resellers – issues of security, compliance and cost are just some of the obstacles.
It is far easier and quicker for a reseller to capitalise on cloud by white-labelling an existing, fully compliant and secure IaaS service, while maintaining full control over the relationship with their customers and end users.
Resellers can quickly and easily sell IaaS, offering their clients all the benefits of secure IT on demand whatever their size, as required and without the fuss and expense of traditional offerings such as VPS.
David Ellis is director of new technology and services at Computerlinks
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