ThinkGrid Cloud Channel Program Aims To Woo Microsoft BPOS Partners

"Some of the big vendors you associate with being channel-friendly are becoming channel-unfriendly," ThinkGrid CEO Rob Lovell said in an interview. Specifically, Lovell called out Microsoft and its BPOS SaaS application suite channel saying Microsoft BPOS VARs tend to receive thin margins.

ThinkGrid is looking to take on Microsoft and woo away its BPOS partners as it prepares to launch its first official channel program in the U.S. after 18 months in the UK.

Essentially, ThinkGrid provides the cloud platform that VARs can white-label or resell. Resellers can offer hosted virtual desktops and a range of SaaS-based applications, including all Microsoft apps. ThinkGrid also offers a host of cloud storage and additional cloud services.

Lovell said the program gives VARs, resellers and managed services providers in the U.S. the ability to snag cloud computing opportunities. Lovell said many resellers are missing out on revenue due to vendors wanting to sell cloud services direct.

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The ThinkGrid program has been beta tested in the U.S. by a handful of partners and now the company is ready to launch it officially. Currently, ThinkGrid has six data centers globally, two in the U.S.

Lovell said ThinkGrid partners will be able to offer a wide range of ThinkGrid cloud services. In addition to hosted virtual desktops, partners will be able to offer Exchange and Communications, VoIP, SaaS, virtual server infrastructure, cloud storage and other services based on a pay-as-you-go model.

"Resellers have been suffering from decreasing margins on traditional software and hardware sales, as well as from vendors going directly to customers and offering their own products as cloud services. Direct-from-vendor clouds in particular pose a long-term challenge, as they conflict with the channel model and inevitably kill margin and value," Lovell said. "Cloud computing should give resellers the opportunity to make significant margins by offering customers a far more efficient, secure, reliable and sophisticated IT infrastructure as a solution, not a commodity. Our partner program ensures resellers are able to deliver high-quality IT services at lower costs and a much higher margin than vendor-specific cloud services such as Microsoft's BPOS. In addition, partners are able to add a whole spectrum of other services and applications to ensure customers benefit from a single solution tailored to the needs of their business."

Lovell said ThinkGrid aims to target VARs engaging the SMB, companies with roughly five to 500 users, and VARs with revenues of $1 million to $50 million. He added that ThinkGrid doesn't want to add partners for the sake of simply bulking up its channel presence. Instead, ThinkGrid is calculated about the solution providers it signs on, ensuring they have a commitment to cloud computing.

"The channel is a very integral part to get cloud computing into businesses," he said, adding that within the next 12 months, ThinkGrid hopes to grow its partner base from five to 50 and build a solid team of evangelists for ThinkGrid and the cloud. He said VARs have built the customer relationships and earned trust, and they are best equipped to bring customers up to speed with cloud computing.

Lovell said ThinkGrid's three-tier channel program, which features certified, gold and platinum level partners, will offer resellers margins of 30 percent or more, while also giving partners the opportunity to repackage, resell or rebrand ThinkGrid products and cloud services.

Meanwhile, partners can use ThinkGrid's billing and provisioning engine, which lets them buy at a wholesale rate and tailor cloud computing services to specific customer needs. Basically, ThinkGrid is providing a platform for resellers to engage customers in the cloud with little risk, as ThinkGrid works in the background to ensure service levels and reliability are maintained.

In addition, ThinkGrid is offering its VARs training programs, sales collateral, joint marketing and qualified leads across the three tiers. ThinkGrid also offers ongoing assistance and a partner extranet to give VARs the resources to educate customers on the advantages of IT services in the cloud.

"Our play is to enable the channel to engage customers with cloud computing," Lovell said. "It's a daunting market to get into and requires a new business model. We want to give them the platform, the building model and the business model to phase in cloud computing."