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Cloud impact on EMEA channels

by Stuart Wilson, Wednesday 22 February 2012

Khaled Kamel, territory channel manager for MENA at Brocade looks at how new cloud models will demand structural changes to vendor partner programmes:

“As cloud computing gathers pace across the EMEA region, vendors play an important role in delivering focused partner programs to support the channel to develop a response and evolve their business models in respect to ‘cloud’ – especially cloud services.

Vendor channel programmes have to incorporate specialisations and education programmes designed to help partners gain maximum revenues, and deliver services and consultancy to capitalise on increased demand from customers. Professional services and consultancy are certainly the growth area; and are driving a culture change within the channel. But this does demand different strengths and a commitment to training and education. Vendor sponsored education will play a key role here.

Three important things spring to mind in the context of the cloud and its channel implications. Firstly the network is still key – wherever it is, whoever owns it, somewhere there still needs to be a physical infrastructure that is optimised for cloud delivery. And there is plenty of evidence that that channel plays a critical role in the design and delivery of that network.

Secondly, SLAs (service level agreements) are going to be vital and customers are going to get much savvier and demanding on this point. This brings us straight back to the network. It still needs to be able to deliver the flexibility, capabilities, intelligence and capacity to support a cloud provisioned solution.

Thirdly, competition will come from new sources, not just vendors or other channel. We are already seeing customers who are using cloud as a way of offering new solutions to other internal divisions to become an internal profit centre. And increasingly large consumer focused enterprises will find cloud enables them to turn their IT infrastructures into a revenue generator by offering storage, email and some SaaS to their customers in a similar way to, say, Amazon. I think we will see a lot of competition in that ‘mass’ and SMB space among the old and new breed services providers.

Last point – while we also believe that IT will increasingly be delivered as a service because enterprises are wary of making capital investments at a time of such economic uncertainly, services aren’t the only way organisations can ‘purchase’ the IT resource they need, with the flexibility they demand as Brocade’s innovative Brocade network subscription solution proves. There will be a variety ways for enterprises to adopt cloud ready infrastructures, whether they own them or not: and the opportunities are there for the channel in each case. The real trick is determining how and what to focus on to be differentiated in the marketplace.

Smart channel [players] will recognise that the network infrastructure is still key who ever owns it, and that enterprise customers will still look for high quality, highly reliable services from providers they trust, and who can provide them with cast iron SLAs. The need for IT services providers that can be the point of integration for customers, and who combine expertise with a targeted, focused business model built on their strengths and areas of differentiation, means there will still be plenty of opportunity for channel."

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