Solution Provider Finds Swift Success With New Cloud Division

And in just a month, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider, which focuses on IT services delivery, has already delivered cloud solutions to three customers -- two existing clients and one new client. Champion's early success with its fledgling Cloud Services division is a testament to the need for organizations to save the up-front costs of bulky hardware and migrate to the operational costs of the cloud.

Meanwhile, solution providers like Champion are also reaping the benefits, bringing in a new monthly revenue stream by offering their client bases a migration path into the burgeoning world of cloud services.

Chris Pyle, Champion Solutions Group's president and CEO, said the new Cloud Services group evolved out of interest from customers. But despite the interest, Pyle said Champion launched its cloud division cautiously.

"Our client base has been asking us 'What is this all about?'" he said. "I certainly don't think it's going to happen overnight; we're not going to just flick a switch and move everything to the cloud. This is not a revolution, it's an evolution, and it's something the channel has to pay attention to."

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Pyle said the cloud is becoming the next practice of IT services delivery and Champion's experience in the virtualization of servers, storage, desktop and applications puts it ahead of the curve. Companies now are challenged with how to go about implementing cloud-based solutions. They have to determine ways to move users and data without disrupting businesses. They also must determine latency tolerance and do regression and stress testing in the cloud. Most IT shops aren't equipped to do that. That's where Champion Cloud Services steps in.

"We want to give our customers the power of choice," he said, adding that Champion can now offer on-premise, cloud or hybrid options.

Champion Cloud Services, which focuses on educating clients about cloud computing; evaluating and architecting solutions incorporating the cloud; and facilitating cloud adoption, comprises a host of service offerings, including cloud readiness assessment; proof of concept and trial deployment; production migration; and infrastructure design service. Along with those services, Champion Cloud Services will offer training, seminars and workshops to discuss the cloud and its benefits, risks and implications, and highlight best practices.

And while Pyle said "we're not trying to force the cloud down everyone's throats," Champion is recommending it where it makes sense, like for Web applications, and community and collaboration software.

"We're not saying the cloud is the answer to everything," he said. "But there is a time and place for it."

Pyle also noted that while cloud computing is just a small portion of Champion Solutions Group's current business, he expects it to bloom throughout 2010 as companies realize they want to access compute capacity on demand.

"It's not going to be a huge piece of our business, but it's going to be a more important piece going forward," Pyle said.

Pyle said launching a cloud division also requires a new type of solution provider that focuses more on recurring revenue than an up-front hardware sale. He said solution providers have to weigh selling a $100,000 machine vs. securing a 36-month contract.

Pyle added that Champion Solutions Group isn't abandoning its traditional business and is moving full steam ahead on the systems integrator side. But there is no denying that customers are interested in the cloud. In Champion's case, its Webinars and seminars that focus on the cloud have been their highest attended in 30 years.

"There's a new normal," he said. "We have to, as solution providers, figure out new ways to delivery in the new normal to accommodate what the marketplace demands."