VMware's guidance on cloud has centered on the message that partners can find their niche in the new and unfamiliar landscape.
"They've told us that by allying ourselves with cloud service providers, we'll be able to transform our businesses and become cloud brokers in the future," said Weiss. "They've also said the solution provider of tomorrow may be a cloud provider with a more boutique, high-touch model. We don't all have to be Amazons -- there's also a need for channel partners that address a certain segment of the market."
Unsurprisingly, VMware partners that are already well established in the cloud aren't as concerned with the implications of the changing channel dynamic.
"What partners fear is the movement away from the private cloud, which is where they have control of the account. But those perceptions are off base," said Keith Norbie, vice president of sales at Nexus Information Systems, Minnetonka, Minn. "There are a number of service provider players that are going to make it very attractive for clients to move workloads into a public cloud."
VMware often talks about the IT spending "drag" that VARs can take advantage of when rearchitecting their customers' data centers for cloud computing.
Doug Smith, VMware's senior director of global partner strategy and operations, told CRN in March that $1 of VMware licensing generates an additional $15 in IT spending that partners can potentially capture. This obviously doesn't apply when VARs work with public cloud providers, but there are still ways that partners can form financially fruitful relationships with these companies.
World Wide Technology, Maryland Heights, Mo., helps service providers architect their public clouds and works with customers to build private clouds. WWT is formalizing partnerships with several cloud service providers, and channel conflict hasn't been an issue, said Scott Miller, director of business development for virtualization and cloud.
"In today's market, we're seeing cloud service providers pretty focused on making money on Infrastructure-as-a-Service exclusively," said Miller. "They haven't shown interest in evolving into managing IT-as-a- Service because that takes a different level of expertise than what they've invested in, and hence, comes with more risk."
WWT is developing marketing collateral that spells out how to team with VMware service provider partners during the sales cycle. "Cloud service providers don't have that go-to-market capability. Most of the ones that went to market initially thought they were going to go direct, but now they're realizing that a lot of the demand comes from the channel and that they need an offering that makes sense," said Miller.
Mike Strohl, president of Entisys, a Concord, Calif.-based virtualization solution provider, agrees. "A lot of the cloud offerings from service providers lack clear direction about how to overlay the technology that will make them function at a level that meets customer requirements," Strohl said. "The reseller opportunity is to provide the consulting and integration services between on-premise systems and those that sit in the cloud, wherever it may be."
Ahead, a Chicago data center solution provider, is another VMware partner building relationships with multiple cloud service providers. Eric Kaplan, vice president of engineering, is helping clients understand the requirements for hosting applications in the cloud, the cloud pricing models and how service level agreements are structured.
Armed with this knowledge, Ahead is starting to help clients host applications in service providers' data centers, paving the way to a hybrid cloud deployment model.
The Next Step: VMware Cloud Foundry