Building Effective Channels in the Cloud

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Last week, THINKstrategies, the Cloud Computing Showplace and Rising Tide Media hosted the inaugural Cloud Channel Summit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, to give senior executives from across the cloud computing industry a forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities in building successful partnerships in the cloud.

The cloud channel topic struck a nerve among the nearly 200 attendees who are tasked with trying to define the role of the channel and seeking to build relationships that can generate new revenue streams for both cloud vendors and their channel counterparts.

Building successful channel relationships and other profitable partnerships in the cloud has been elusive for many vendors because of the direct delivery, commodity pricing and dynamic nature of cloud services. The Summit enabled industry practitioners to explore these issues and discuss how they need to realign their channel programs to accommodate the unique attributes of the cloud.

Stephen Cho, director of channels and business development at Google Enterprise, kicked off the event with an opening keynote entitled, “Making Rain in the Channel: New Opportunities in Cloud Computing.” Cho has been instrumental in building Google’s channel strategy and partner ecosystem. In his talk, he examined how cloud vendors can build successful partnerships with existing and new channel organizations.

Ron Huddleston, senior vice president of ISV alliances at Salesforce.com, followed Cho’s talk with a presentation outlining the “5 Steps to Building a Successful Channel Program in the Cloud.”

Rick Nucci, the CTO, and Diane Ruth, executive director of business development, at Dell Boomi, presented their views about the keys to building successful partnerships in a talk entitled, “The Cloud Era of Channel Success: Is Your Organization Partner-Ready?”

Amy Anderson, a director in IBM’s Cloud Computing Partner Program-ISV and Developer Relations program, identified channel opportunities to build your own cloud solutions in the final keynote of the Summit.

These presentations were augmented by six panels composed over 25 CEOs, CTOs, and business development and channel management executives, which dove deeper into these topics. They discussed what’s working and what’s not, how companies can use the cloud ecosystem to create new customer value, and new market opportunities for cloud channels.

While many case study examples of success were presented during the event, it was clear to everyone who attended that much more has to be done to codify the critical success factors in building successful channel relationships and partnerships in the cloud. An indication of this reality was another industry gathering later in the week called gSocial, where a cross-section of Google partners, both ISVs and resellers, discussed current issues associated with building a vibrant channel ecosystem around Google’s marketplace.

Creating a more effective channel ecosystem is critical to the long-term success of the cloud marketplace. The initial growth of the market has been driven by direct sales and delivery models. But in order for the cloud movement to become mainstream and penetrate more deeply into specific market segments, channel companies with specific industry domain expertise or geographic presence must play a greater role in the distribution and support of cloud solutions.

The Cloud Channel Summit gave executives focused on this task a forum to trade perspectives, share their experiences and identify emerging best practices for building successful channels in the cloud.

Jeff Kaplan is the Managing Director of THINKstrategies and Founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace. He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com.

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