As cloud computing continues to evolve most solution providers are going to find themselves playing the role of broker across a broad array of cloud computing services that each individual customer will want to consume in a manner that invariably will be unique to them.
While that may be simple to comprehend in theory, Cynthia Gallant, vice president of worldwide channel strategy and development for Citrix Systems, says solution providers need to start really thinking through how a major change to the way IT services are being consumed will ultimately transform their business. Beyond simply accessing applications running in a third-party data center, Gallant says the future of cloud computing will be dominated by a hybrid cloud computing model where most applications will be federated between private instances of cloud computing and various public cloud services.
Gallant says that by now it’s clear that the IT organizations charged with building and delivering those applications are being fundamentally transformed. Instead of having dedicated application, server, storage and networking specialists, IT organizations are reorganizing around more holistic approaches to managing IT at a higher level of abstraction; thereby making it easier for generalists to manage an end-to-end service that spans multiple data centers. To better reflect that new customer reality, Gallant says solution providers are also going to have to realign their practices because the days when, for example, someone within the customer’s IT organization focused primarily on storage are coming to a close. Instead, solution providers will have to reorganize their practices to mirror the new structures of the IT organizations they serve.
Just as importantly, Gallant says solution providers in the age of the cloud will also need to address compensation models that are quickly becoming obsolete in a cloud age where the life of any given contract is likely to span multiple years of revenue recognition.
Of course, despite narrow technological definitions of cloud computing, the fact remains that customers are using the term cloud computing to encompass everything from virtualization to managed hosting and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Far from leading to the disintermediation the channel, Gallant contends that solution providers that rapidly move to evolve their IT practices will become even more trusted as they move to meet the real needs of their customers versus merely focusing on tactical issues, such as, margin uplift on one product versus another. That can’t happen, however, unless the conversation with the customer starts first with what they are trying to achieve versus what they might ultimately need to buy.