Even though workloads are changing with the cloud, the industry needs to change how it is relating to one another in order to keep up, solution provider executives said at a 2013 Best of Breed Conference forum discussion Wednesday hosted by The Channel Company.
The industry used to be just about speeds and feeds, George Barkley, managing partner at Sovereign Systems, said at the forum, but now it has shifted toward how IT can act as a business enabler for its customers. The trend is only enhanced as sales forces catch on, and the trend "snowballs" as more customers ask for business solutions rather than technical.
In an earlier BoB 2013 presentation, IBM Vice President of Worldwide Channels David Carlquist said an IBM study found that 90 percent of CEOs consider the cloud "critical" to business. The shift changes the work that solution providers do, said Ron Dupler, CEO of GreenPages, toward private cloud infrastructure, layers of management, automation, architecting service platforms and rationalizing app portfolios.
"Right now were in a huge period of transition in the industry. I think we all get and know that now; the reinforcement is certainly underway. With that, it certainly puts a lot of pressure on the channel. ... I think it behooves us all to see our channel be extremely relevant in being the premier way customers get IT solutions," Dupler said.
Dupler said that as the industry continues to change, solution providers should band together.
"While we may compete day to day, we all want to work together to improve the channel," Dupler said.
The focus is shifting, said Tim Burke, president and CEO at Quest, to a focus on the customer and what business development can be provided as a solution provider, whether through the cloud or elsewhere.
"The reality is as a solution provider, a cloud provider, a managed service provider, whatever you want to call yourself, what you're trying to do for [the customer] and what we're seeing is trying to work with a customer to sort all this stuff out," Burke said. "The roles are still the same -- from our perspective, it's just the opportunity to help people achieve what they're trying to achieve."
Because, in the end, it is the same business, just through a different medium, said Richard Baldwin, CSO and CIO at Nth Generation. The problem is when solution providers overextend themselves in the process of providing cloud for the sake of providing cloud instead of offering it as a business solution.
Baldwin said that Nirvanix's bankruptcy filing was a wake-up call to the industry to take "baby steps" and tread carefully with partnerships. He said he expects the bankruptcy to "weed out some of the smaller players who don't have the wherewithal." R&D is a possible solution to remain viable in the marketplace, he said, because ultimately the need for services won't disappear from the marketplace.
"People are still going to need services in the future, whether they need cloud or not," Baldwin said.
However, just because the cloud is gaining ground does not mean the industry will completely make the switch to cloud, said Sovereign Systems' Barkley. He said he was approaching cloud cautiously and that he didn’t plan to "bet the farm if we're not going to succeed."
There will still be a place for resellers and other forms of solutions going forward, he said.
"You can't just throw it all away overnight, mainly because the customers aren’t going to do that," Barkley said. "I think that’s the struggle -- you have new options. I think we as solution providers have to figure out what the new strategy is. For us, we need to do what we're good at."
PUBLISHED OCT. 16, 2013