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For Appirio, that creates a new revenue stream by enabling the company to offer a cloud management play and create an increased level of stickiness.
"It's the ongoing capacity to make these improvements. Once we build that app it ensures it doesn't go stale," Nichols said, noting Appirio calls that its Cloud Improvement Program.
That's a turnaround, however, on how Appirio used to work in the support arena. In the past, Nichols said, Appirio would dial up the vendor, for example Salesforce.com, if there was an issue.
"If only we'd built in the capacity to do these things it would relieve the friction," Nichols said Appirio thought at the time. "It changes what support means. It's more about continuous improvements."
Same goes for Google Apps, for which Appirio plays the partner role and supplies customized views, training and other value adds.
"It's sticky because we're there and we're adding value every day," he said.
For some providers, like Terremark, which was recently acquired by Verizon, the support question depends on solution provider partner preference. Either the solution provider can take the first call, or Miami-based Terremark can.
Jim Livingston, Terremark's senior vice president of channels and alliances, said a lot of VARs developed services around parts and replacement and built out programs around that model. But cloud computing flipped that paradigm on its ear.
Livingston said he sees fewer VARs wanting to be the first call as cloud computing margins are thinner compared to parts and replacement. And while Livingston said, "it's very advantageous owning the customer relationship," many solution providers aren't ready to build out their own network operations center (NOC) to prepare for the cloud boom and to be able to adequately fight the fires that can erupt in cloud environments.
Paul Hilbert, partner at Network Doctor, an Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based solution provider, said cloud computing solutions open the door for VARs and solution providers to offer remote support and that Network Doctor offers cloud support to its client-base and is their main point of contact.
"If there's an outage, I need to be 100 percent in control... We can't just wait for someone else to fix the problem," he said.
For Network Doctor, being the first line of support is as much about control as it is about margin. But ultimately, it comes down to being able to serve the customer and keep the cloud running with little interruption.
"If Google has a problem or a hiccup, who do you call?" he asked. "You can't call Google."