Cloud computing is creating new opportunities for solution providers, but it's fair to say most could use a little guidance on the best way to expand into this new area.
IBM Tuesday at COMDEXvirtual said its getting in front of the problem by providing products, training and other resources to its channel partners to help them move into cloud computing.
Michael Heegaard, director of cloud computing for the IBM business partner organization, shared strategies partners can use in the cloud market and detailed how IBM supports and enables business partners to create, sell and deploy solutions based on public and private cloud platforms.
Heegaard spoke during a session at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.
Cloud computing is a new model for delivering and consuming computing capabilities, Heegaard said. "There is instant capacity on tap," he said, referring to cloud computing's on-demand, self-service approach with location-independent resource pooling, ubiquitous network access, rapid elasticity and flexible pricing.
All of this means more options for business partners. Solution providers can become cloud components suppliers, Heegaard said, delivering the hardware, software and maintenance services customers need for cloud computing. Or they can become cloud system builders that design, develop and deploy cloud systems and provide training for clients.
Other roles for solution providers include becoming a cloud services reseller, packaging public cloud offerings and managing them for customers; becoming a cloud operator managing a public cloud or a customer's private cloud system; becoming a cloud aggregator, offering a collection of cloud services targeted at a specific market; and becoming a cloud advisor where the partner focuses on the planning aspects of cloud computing.
"All of these partner roles are distinct and have their own business model," Heegaard said. Cloud component suppliers will largely rely on one-time reseller margins to generate profits, for example, while cloud service resellers will generate recurring subscription revenue. "The business models are different and the skills and the content you will need to be successful are different as well," he said.
Solution partners must be "very deliberate" in determining which business model applies to them and their market, based on their current business and how they want to grow, Heegaard said. But he also said there is no magic formula for success, and he cautioned partners to "be ready to make some mistakes" as they expand into cloud computing.
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IBM brings a lot to the cloud computing table, based on what role partners adopt, Heegaard said. Partners, for example, can resell IBM-hosted cloud services, such as the LotusLive Web conferencing and collaboration applications or the vendor's Information Protection Service backup and recovery offering.
Partners can use IBM tools such as Tivoli Service Automation Manager, Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager and Tivoli Monitoring to deliver cloud services. They can provide information retention services using IBM's Information Archive system, integrate cloud and on-premise applications using IBM's Cast Iron system, and use IBM security products to protect a customer's cloud computing assets.
IBM also provides a range of cloud computing enablement and training services through its partner portal, including technical sales training and certification, whitepapers, market data and other assets.
IBM has been conducting cloud computing workshops with its business partners during the last 18 months, and Heegaard said many are initially adopting a consultative approach given that cloud computing is so new. But partners expect cloud computing services to generate average gross profits of 30 percent, 12 points higher than on traditional IT services, and average net profits of 14 percent, 7 to 10 points higher than on typical IT infrastructure sales, Heegaard said.
Register now to attend COMDEXvirtual or to access on-demand sessions.