The Clouds Of The Future: Where Does The Channel Stand?

In the months ahead, it's going to become crystal clear that the move to cloud-based computing is accelerating and its impact across the market is as well.

Hardware-infrastructure-focused vendors without clear cloud strategies will find themselves explaining downgrades and transition plans. Those that do have clear strategies will be attempting to cross the chasm to the new world more rapidly. Consolidation will pick up as vendors merge and acquire as part of a transition strategy.

Meanwhile, solution providers that are focused on building bigger cloud businesses and professional services will be investing heavily or be part of the accelerated consolidation play.

[Related: Andy Jassy: Amazon's $6 Billion Man]

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New powerhouses also will begin to emerge. Amazon, which five years ago was an online retailer, is now an example of a newer provider of computing power.

Predicting the ultimate winners will be nearly impossible, but names like Nutanix and SimpliVity have a real shot at becoming significant components of the new world.

Cloud computing also is accelerating the ability of startups to disrupt many markets. What Uber and Lyft have done to the taxi business is one example. Zenefits in HR management is another. None of these would have been realistically possible in the past. They are happening today because we have a generation coming of age in the workforce that doesn't remember life before the Internet and sees things others don't because they have been raised in a technology-savvy world.

Solution providers also must realize the model is changing, as is the customer set. New tech-savvy business people think differently, want different results and are not wowed by infrastructure. The network is merely the enabler to a higher goal.

Infrastructure is expected to work and will be expected to be increasingly less expensive in the years ahead, whether it is provided on-premise or via the cloud.

What will matter most is applications. As a business owner who jumped to the cloud two years ago, I no longer think about my infrastructure in the same way. Today I question how we can build applications that deliver value to our customers, modernize our operation and allow us to deliver products we could not comprehend of in the past.

Solution providers need to focus on delivering business outcomes. As we have said in the past, we are going to see a much larger group of solution providers touting sales of $500 million and above. But they, too, will be challenged in building and sustaining businesses of that magnitude.

IT consulting services will need to be augmented with more general consulting services that address process and organizational change. I expect many solution providers are going to add those practices rather than let another player step in.

As this happens, the sphere of influence begins to shift as bigger solution providers become bigger influencers in the end-user world, and hold more juice with the vendors they represent.

What all this boils down to is the discussion around how, when, why and should I move to the cloud is winding down. It's becoming more of a debate around how can I not move to the cloud and how fast should I do so.

As that happens, the winners and losers are going to show their faces, and we will be writing obituaries and birth notices on companies at a rapid clip. Through it all, the channel will morph and adjust and will come out looking far different than it does today—but, heck, we've seen this game before.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at [email protected].