In a bygone era, that little blue Intel Inside swirl was the tech industry's version of an Underwriters Laboratories logo, a badge that assured hardware buyers and sellers they were getting leading-edge processor technology. Intel would like those days back, thank you very much.
In this age of cloud, with infrastructure largely decoupled from business computing, the speeds and feeds that once dominated enterprise IT conversations have been relegated to the status of quaint trivia.
That's what cloud computing was supposed to do, after all: allow us to worry less about how things work and more about what they do. The shift in focus is only a concern if you're in the business of developing and selling the guts of the systems that make the cloud tick.
In an effort to get some of its mojo back, Intel has launched a Powered by Intel Cloud Technology program. The marketing scheme is doling out badges to cloud services providers as a way of letting the world know what's under the datacentre hood of some of the largest cloud providers.
Sixteen services providers are already displaying the Powered by Intel Cloud Technology badge in their sales and marketing materials.
The programme raises two questions, however.
First, does anyone other than Intel really care what processors are used in a datacentre that supports cloud services often three or four times removed from the end user?
And second, even if users do care, is it wise for providers to muddy their own value-added branding efforts by introducing a vendor's attention-grabbing moniker? Haven't we been down this road before?
To the first question, Intel issues a resounding yes. End customers, the company says, are clamouring for a way to weed through myriad cloud services providers and find those best suited to improving service performance, reliability, security, and maximising RoI.
Naturally, Intel believes the cloud services based on its underlying infrastructure will win that battle if the customer is duly informed.
"Much like when choosing a car, the type of engine that runs a cloud service dramatically affects performance and efficiency," claims Jason Waxman, vice president of the datacentre group and general manager of the cloud platform group, at Intel.
"Cloud customers want to know what technology their applications are running on because it has a direct impact on their business. For the first time, users will have the transparency to select the technologies that are optimal for running their applications in the cloud."
Here's where Waxman's analogy falls down. Back in the early 1980s, Chrysler made a cool little car called the Dodge Omni (also known as the Plymouth Horizon). If you're in the US and over 40, you either had one or knew someone who did.
It was the first American made front-wheel drive four-door with a transverse-mounted engine. Here's the thing: over the years some Omnis and Horizons shipped with Peugeot engines, some with Volkswagen engines, and still others with Mitsubishi engines.
Did anyone know or care much about this? Not really.
Quick, who made the engine in the popular 1998 Kia Sportage cross-over? If you said Mazda, you win, and you're probably an editor for a car magazine.
According to Intel, however: "End users are increasingly looking for more insight into the performance, capabilities and cost trade-offs of the many instances that cloud providers offer so they can get the right size and type of performance matched to their specific workloads."
That seems unlikely for all but a narrow group of specific clients with arcane needs. Still, the Powered by Intel Cloud Technology programme in the US has sealed commitments from Expedient, Rackspace, CenturyLink's Savvis, and Virtustream.
In fairness, Intel isn't asking something for nothing here. As part of the programme, Intel is promising direct marketing campaigns and co-marketing activities with partners to promote underlying cloud technologies and their impact on things like application performance and user experience.
The rest of the list includes: UK-based Atos company Canopy; Cloud4com in the Czech Republic; CloudWatt, Online.net, and OVH in France; KIO Networks in Mexico; KT in South Korea; Locaweb, UOLDIVEO and UOL Host in Brazil; NxtGen in India; and Selectel in Russia.
Which brings us to the second question: Is it wise for partners to conflate their brand with a vendor's in an effort to ride their technological coat tails?
We've consistently counselled partners to lead with their own brands and minimise their reliance on vendor branding to maximising their perceived value.
For many years it was far too easy for channel partners to hide their lamp under a vendor bushel, a practice that left many in the lurch when the services model usurped the transactional channel.
When a partner ignores or plays down the power of its own brand in favour of a vendor's brand, they diminish the value of their expertise and their service quality.
It's not just a bad idea in the long term; there's also evidence that leading with vendor brands doesn't work very well in the short run either. As our 2013 Channel Perceptions study pointed out, solution providers don't see much value or positive results from vendor-led marketing programmes.
While vendors themselves championed their branding efforts, scoring them eight out of ten for their ability to drive sales, partners were far less enthusiastic, giving such programmes only a 6.5.
In this new services era, business clients associate the value of a service, with the company that provides it. The tech provider is the brand the businesses are banking on and need to trust. No vendor badge is going to change that.
Chris Gonsalves is vice president of editorial at Channelnomics
For more US channel coverage, visit www.channelnomics.com
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