The confluence of connectivity, devices and social interaction have created a wealth of opportunities in the cloud, and for partners that integrate and packages those tools into a variety of cloud services.
"An enormous amount has changed in this cloud space in just this past year …," Peter Coffee, vice president and head of platform research at Salesforce.com, told 275 solution providers Thursday at Ingram Micro's 2011 Cloud Services Summit. "This is an extraordinary time to be doing what you do."
According to Coffee, recent research has found that only one in six companies making the leap to the cloud is doing so without a partner. Companies are seeking out cloud experts to get their cloud ecosystem off the ground, creating myriad opportunities for resellers.
"The cloud is now the starting point for conversations," he said.
A major component is the social aspect of cloud computing, where Salesforce plays with its Chatter application. Coffee cited Morgan Stanley research that found social networking use surpassed e-mail in 2009.
"Social is not an application" he said. "Social is a model."
And for solution providers, vendors and software makers are creating APIs that enable them to tie together once disparate systems to add social capabilities and bake them into other applications. For example, Coffee said, a hash tag used on Twitter can be tied directly to an opportunity in a CRM system.
"People love to be in contact with other people sharing what they think is cool," he said.
Another key opportunity for solution providers in the cloud is the cloud's ability for customization, which can create stickiness and help partners offer customers solutions that best meet their needs without extra, unnecessary components.
But it's vital for solution providers to let their customers know that a cloud computing environment is not a rip and replace. Instead, "you've got to think of the cloud as a supermarket" where different components are taken from different places and all purchased together, and integration partners can connect cloud solutions to non-cloud solutions.
"Cloud is a multi-product marketplace … The people who are doing well in this space are the ones that can go out and be a personal shopper," he said.
According to Coffee, "cloudenomics" dictates that systems will cost less, yet be worth more, which will spark greater demand for resellers to combine and connect multiple cloud models. Solution providers will be able to build out valuable solutions and deliver them in less time.
"This is about a permanent shift; it is not a pendulum swing …," Coffee said. "This is the way we're going to live."
Coffee concluded: "We think this is the place for partners to be."