One of the highlights of Everything Channel's XChange Tech Innovators conference in Las Vegas this week was all the solution provider buzz and activity around cloud computing.
It's not too early to call 2010 as the year of the cloud for the channel. Solution providers, from the smallest to the biggest players, were getting their hands around the cloud and planning their 2010 cloud sales strategy.
The cloud frenzy at Tech Innovators began with a bang up keynote session from technology visionary Kim Polese, one of the driving forces behind the Java programming language that forever changed web application development, told solution providers that the cloud and mobile computing revolutions have opened the door for "exponential" sales growth and "higher margins."
Polese, the CEO of SpikeSource, which is driving a new applications revolution with its automated app certification service, said the blistering pace of technology change has made it a "wonderful time" to be a solution provider.
Steve Rosenthal, vice president of Gap International,a global management consulting company headquartered in Philadelphia, offered more practical advice as it relates to the cloud.
Realizing that the human brain is wired for certainty and predictability and avoiding threat, Rosenthal advised Tech Innovator attendees to "interrupt and bypass the brain system" in order to drive extraordinary sales growth.
"If first base is current thinking and second base is extraordinary thinking, you can't steal second base without taking your foot off first," said Rosenthal.
Finally, the cloud computing panel that closed the show featured practical advice on what solution providers need to do to get into the fast growing market.
Jayne Stommel, president of JWS Group Inc, a 16 year old Plainfield, Indiania solution provider, said she's ready to make a move to the cloud model after attending the event. Stommel said it was not having solid grasp of what precisely is the new cloud model that was holding her back.
All it took was some hands on advice from panelists to get her excited about making the move.
Bobby Napiltonia, a cloud channel pioneer who drove huge sales growth for partners at Salesforce.com., the leading cloud applications provider, stressed that cloud solution providers have built multimillion dollar businesses with robust margins. It's a mistake, he said, to get trapped into believing that it's just about the per user, per year commission model.
Patrick Ciccarelli, president and CEO of Varsity Technologies, a San Francisco, Calif. solution provider focused on the small business market, in fact, has moved into a much higher level strategic consulting role with his customers by focusing on the cloud.
Ciccarelli, who has recently moved customers away from big infrastructure purchases to cloud based purchases, said that has won him a more trusted, strategic advisor position with his customers. By the way, Ciccarelli is directing his clients on what products or services they should buy to move to the cloud even if he doesn't have the reseller relationship with the vendor. That says a lot. Think of Varsity Technologies as a McKinsey & Co. like consultant for businesses.
John Ross, chief technology officer of GreenPage, one of the most respected national solution providers, meanwhile, said GreenPages is seeing a large amount of business from customers looking for strategic advice on network infrastructure and architecture as they plan the the move first to private cloud and then to public cloud.
GreenPages been on the cutting edge of the private cloud movement with a strategic relationship with EMC, VMware and Cisco that is driving a lot of Fortune 500 private cloud activity.
On the vendor front, you know it's a mature market when you see breakthrough products coming to the market for small medium business solution providers. That was certainly the case at Tech Innovator's 2009 where LongJump, a Sunnyvale, Calif. cloud innovator that delivers an easy on ramp, end to end platform for SMB VARs looking to move the cloud, was voted by solution providers as the "Most Innovative Technology" at the event.
Rick McEachern, chairman of LongJump, said customers are using the platform for everything from doctor's office scheduling and dental practice management solutions to GPS location vehicle tracking and Human Resource applications.
gCloud3, a Las Vegas based startup, turned a lot of solution provider heads with its turnkey private cloud solution. Michael Fraser, director of gCloud3, said he sees a breakthrough sales year for his new company in 2010.
Even one of the industry pioneers, Novell, has moved quickly with a full fledged product line to support solution providers bringing cloud solutions to the market. In fact, Dan Dufault, global director of partner marketing, for Novell, called Novell an "arms dealer" for the cloud computing revolyution that is reshaping the market.
The most striking message from all the experts on the cloud panel was that those solution providers that don't make the move will find themselves marginalized or out of business. There's a cloud burst of activity out there. And if you don't get with the program you are going to find yourself in a rain storm without an umbrella.