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Ritter's prediction of a more verticalized channel cloud model is intriguing to Robert Bojanek, executive vice president of the ShoreGroup, a Syracuse, N.Y.-based integrator.
"That is a very deep question that depends on exactly where you are playing in the cloud," Bojanek said. "I believe you can be very successful with horizontal offerings as long as you have a very high degree of technical expertise. For example, we do a lot of contact center work, which requires a deep understanding of databases, reporting and strategies for the delivery of applications. It is very horizontal. On the other hand, I can also see situations where an integrator might be working with a more commoditized technology, but can differentiate based on a very deep knowledge of the specific vertical."
The debate is not new to the technology industry. New technology developments often begin with a horizontal mentality but then become more verticalized as they mature.
"It is a lot like the move to the Internet itself," said Phil Mogavero, vice president and regional CTO of PCM Inc., an El Segundo, Calif.-based integrator. They had to redesign their applications. The people who built those applications were either ISVs or people who were very skilled with software development. I'm not sure that a typical VAR will be able to create the processes necessary to fully execute vertically within the cloud at this point. That said, I also think some of the larger integrators, like ourselves, will focus on the vertical part to make sure that what we are building fully meets the needs of the customer."
Meanwhile, Chris Vincent, president of Global Data Systems in Lafayette, La., agrees that the channel model for the cloud will become more vertical over time, but he also feels that the transition is farther down the road than some people might believe.
"I think it's moving in the direction of verticalization, but I also think we've got to get the consumption model more fully converted," he said. "There's a lot of noise being made around cloud, and it is growing at an extremely rapid pace, but there is still a long way to go. In some cases, it's important to have solutions that are easily replicatable, and other situations where you need something that is a lot more customizable. It's a building block approach. You start with a more horizontal piece and then specialize as you go."