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Channel Opportunities in the Cloud Crystalizing

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THINKstrategies, the Cloud Computing Showplace and Rising Tide Media hosted their second annual Cloud Channel Summit this week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA — and what a difference a year makes.

The purpose of our Summit is to give senior executives from leading cloud and channel companies an opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with building successful partnerships in the cloud.

A year ago, the participants of the inaugural Summit spent much of the day discussing whether there was a role for the channel in the cloud and how to get channel companies engaged in the rapidly evolving cloud marketplace. Our event reflected the market reality at that time with only a handful of traditional channel companies actively pursuing cloud strategies and only a few channel company executives attending our event.

This year’s Summit attracted an impressive array of senior executives from major distributors, resellers, managed services providers (MSPs) and other IT services companies such as Tech Data, Ingram-Micro, Insight, Avnet, Cloud Sherpas, All Covered, Spiceworks and Centerbeam.

Stacy Nethercoat, VP, Software & Cloud Services at Tech Data, told the Summit attendees that the cloud allows distributors to pursue three new business models:

  1. Pass-through for third-party services
  2. Distributor as back-office provider
  3. Distributor as a service provider

Tech Data launched its Stream One store earlier this year to deliver real-time provisioning and billing capabilities for VARs moving into the cloud. It is now rolling out a TDCloud Community to help VARs learn from their peers.

She echoed the views I’ve expressed in my previous Sandhill.com commentaries:

“I believe the channel has the scale and the coverage, and already has trusted-advisor status. The opportunity is to expand that in the cloud world.”

But, she also went on to say:

“If channel does not get onboard, many companies run the risk of winding up in this museum.”

Ron Huddleston, SVP of ISV Alliances at SalesForce.com, told the Summit attendees:

“We can’t execute on our visions without our partners. That’s why our ISV partner ecosystem will remain so important.”

While Salesforce.com has built a robust ISV partner/channel ecosystem via its AppExchange, it is still in the early stages of extending its reach into the traditional distributor, VAR and reseller channel community. Ron identified the following steps for building these companies to successful cloud channel companies:

  • Build an organization born for the cloud
  • Focus on customer and partner success
  • Ensure transparent cloud economics
  • Be the market maker
  • Develop a team of evangelists

While cloud vendors and traditional channel companies may still have a long way to go in their efforts to create new business relationships, the innovations and initiatives presented at the Cloud Channel Summit clearly showed that they are both working hard to make it happen.

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace He can be reached at [email protected].

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