It's only been a month since I posted "Will 2011 be the Year of the Cloud?" and cloud talk seems to have increased exponentially since then, it's hard to keep up with everything that's happening out there.
The buzz, however, feels different. I have noticed that vendors are moving beyond the cloud hype and aggressively pushing cloud based offerings. After three years of limited IT budgets, the Cloud is fast becoming the new IT Gold Rush.
Microsoft leads the pack with intense advertising aimed at the consumer as well as the enterprise, and meetings with partners throughout 2010; see Joe Panettieri's blog posts, also Talkin' Cloud posts on Kaspersky, Panda Security and Symantec.
A recurrent topic is what role the channel will play. There is always the fear -and this not unfounded- that vendors might skip the channel and offer products directly to customers. Case in point: Microsoft, who is getting a lot of attention on this topic; see Microsoft Channel Chief Responds to Cloud Billing Again).
Fact is, the role the channel will play in the cloud is a question that remains unanswered. Some vendors are trying out new business models but most likely this is something we will learn and optimize as we go.
Here are five questions channel partners should ask:
- Are the tech vendors I work with talking about cloud solutions? Everyone is talking cloud but not everyone has launched an offering yet. However, don't wait for that; if you have the opportunity, sign up for beta testing and make sure you are in the game from the very beginning.
- Are these vendors talking to partners about these new offerings? Don't expect a clear business value with a well defined value proposition yet, but be ready to provide feedback on how your business can add value to the solution.
- Are the solutions I work with shifting to the cloud? Security and Collaboration are fast moving to the cloud, and keep an eye on storage as well.
- Do I have what I need to get started? Chances are, if you're not in the cloud, you will have to make big changes and you need to start by understanding how your sales force will be compensated. Don't expect your sales people to embrace cloud solutions; if they are used to getting a big commission every quarter, this will change with recurrent billing. Consider hiring a sales specialist just for cloud solutions!
- Are other vendors talking to your customers about the cloud? Make sure you are the FIRST one to talk to and advise your customers!
These are my thoughts on what the channel should be looking at this year. More to come soon!