Partners to channel cloud knowledge
Petra Heinrich, VP Partners and Alliances, Red Hat EMEA, talks about the role of channel partners in enhancing cloud knowledge in the IT market.
From hype to disillusionment and back to deployment reality – cloud computing has been through all of this over the course of the last five years. As we move away from the grey economic downturn, enterprises looking to grow quickly are looking to cloud computing which eliminates the need for upfront investment in IT hardware.
While many firms are aware of the benefits of cloud computing, they need help when it comes to deployment, and so turn to their partners and system integrators for guidance. Channel partners should consider expanding their portfolio to include cloud-related services and to then offer integration services. These days you can’t make it by just selling hardware and that’s why channel partners need to become cloud specialists.
It was not so long ago that the role of the channel was a lot more clearly defined.
Whether you were an independent software vendor (ISV), a reseller, a distributor or a system integrator, you knew your role. However, a shift is taking place, largely driven by the introduction of cloud computing.
Some channel partners see their business opportunities being disrupted as cloud computing removes some of the expertise associated with installation and the setting up a new solution. Cloud computing also simplifies customisation and spreads costs out over many billing periods.
One of the other reasons partners have concerns expanding their portfolio to include cloud is grounded in the argument that cloud computing is insecure – supposedly because data that is stored outside of a company’s own systems is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Another common reservation for cloud deployment lies in the implications behind large dependence on one particular provider.
Open hybrid cloud computing offers partners new opportunities to increase sales through complementing technologies. In order to sell cloud solutions, partners need to understand how cloud computing infrastructure and services can be deployed in a way that is open and appropriate for both on premise and off-premise data. This is important because a hybrid cloud model enables the IT professional and enterprise to assess and differentiate between data that is high-risk and therefore should be housed on premise, and data that is low-risk and can therefore be stored more cost effectively off-site.
The opportunity for the partner is through enterprises using an open source model where open hybrid clouds enables enterprises to use other technologies from the most appropriate vendors, rather than being locked-in to one vendor technology stack.
Channel partners also need to be able to allay the traditional cloud computing deployment fears for their customers. Industry examples and deployments have now shown that using a hybrid cloud approach is secure and, in fact, offers enterprises a greater level of security and assurance around where their data is located. Similarly, channel partners can address concerns around using a single provider. A Linux-based OpenStack solution as the basis for a cloud infrastructure, allows enterprises to create a foundation based exclusively on open standards.
The underlying difference for channel partners when selling cloud-based solutions is how they position their expertise on top of that of the cloud vendors. In the same way that newspapers have reinvented themselves online, channel partners need to reinvent themselves to meet their markets’ needs.
A channel partner’s conversation with their customer now needs to start with what the corporate IT department is trying to achieve versus what they might ultimately buy. In doing so, that changes the partner’s role from selling a few product lines to being a true service provider.
The future of the channel partner in the cloud world is taking on a new model. The channel partner is someone who is capable of quickly understanding new products that are relevant to their and serves as an expert for support and industry best practices. Since the channel partner is actually doing more in this scenario, this is where they will benefit and ultimately earn more revenue.