In our last Channel Cloud Consulting post, we argued that the creation of channel partners (aka VARs, SIs, MSPs, consultants) focused uniquely on the cloud is a key ingredient to driving the cloud tipping point for companies and the industry.  For purposes of discussion, let’s call this category of channel partners “Cloud Integrators.”

This post will focus on IaaS, although SaaS and PaaS Cloud silos will each have their own group of cloud-based services that will require pairing Cloud Integrators with Cloud Service Providers.  Cloud Integrators will help turn cloud offerings/products that fit the need of a group of users (work load) into cloud solutions that meet the IT requirements of whole businesses.

Even though there are already $Bs spent on IaaS, most of the spend is to deliver offerings/products that fit into use cases like Test/Dev,  BCDR, and sometimes pre-production workloads; but in the future public cloud IaaS will become ‘the’ way that companies receive IT services.  For that to happen Cloud Integrators will be required to advise, build and manage the disparate workloads that will be delivered by one or more Service Providers.

As we begin to explore Cloud Integrator services, we are specifically talking about services that turn basic computer/storage/network and SLAs that are typically associated with IaaS, into whole solutions that meet the needs of enterprise constituents including IT, LOB and end users.

We believe that IaaS services will fit into one of the following categories:

  1. Advisory Services – consulting to help customers assess and validate one or more aspects of the IaaS opportunity.  This can range from developing a cloud strategy, to developing an ROI business case, to conducting cloud assessments, etc.  Advisory Services are typically project-based professional services the leverage a management consulting model to answer questions that require problem assessment and resolution.
  2. Technical/Project Services – professional services typically technical and/or project management designed to architect solutions and project manage the implementation of proposed architectures.  This is the domain of the VAR and Systems Integrator, but doing this work in and around the cloud requires new skills, e.g., AP Dev skills,  Cloud Automation/Management capabilities, project management skill set that extend beyond just building IT solutions.
  3. Management Services – the business model for the Cloud Integrator is weighted more toward on-going value add (typically delivered and charged as an annuity matched to the end-customer’s IaaS pay-go expenditure).  This set of services includes cloud brokerage where the Cloud Integrator can assess the SLAs and App Performance of workloads across all Service Providers with an eye to optimizing cost/benefit to the customer.  As a “broker” the Cloud Integrator will operate as an MSP using a dashboard and APIs that monitors all cloud workloads across public and private clouds so as to manage the overall IT performance.  Other managed services might include Identity Access and Controls implementing user access around Active Directory, conventional MSP offerings such as RMM, help desk, managed security, but extended to include cloud-based workloads.  Some partners may offer consolidated billing of all cloud-based offerings, where the Cloud Integrator buys pay-go from providers and brands/bills/supports these offerings to the end customer.
We believe that the development of these services will require innovative IaaS Vendors (like VMware who make cloud automation and enablement software) as well as Service Providers (like Savvis, Amazon EC2, Colt) who deliver the pay-go computer service to create and enable Cloud Integrators; but it will be incumbent on VARs and SIs to pick and chose the assemblage of vendors and providers that they wish to go to market with to insure that they piece together an IaaS practice and the required training.  
There will be A LOT of training required here.  Both to learn the individual roles of Consultants, Systems Architects, Project Managers and Managed Services teams and to learn how these roles come together to form a cloud practice.  
For Enterprise Customers, we think many of the partners will be able to morph out of being in-house data center VARs and SIs to add these Cloud Capabilities; this makes sense because public cloud will come out of private (in-house) data centers at least in the short term before we hit the IT Utility tipping point (see my earlier posts).
In SMB, we think vendors, providers and Cloud Integrators need to take a pure-play approach to IaaS in the public cloud leveraging Virtual Private Cloud and other pay-go option.  In this space, we do not believe that Cloud Integrators can afford to focus on both the in-house (perpetual) as well as the public cloud (annuity) model within the same P&L.  As my last post argued, this is just too difficult and does not insure the right focus on the public cloud.  
Lot’s of moving parts here, if you’re a vendor, service provider or aspiring Cloud Integrator, make sure you have a vision, business model, and plan in place and stay focused, its easy to get disoriented when you’re in navigating through clouds :)

- Channel Cloud Consulting