COMDEXvirtual: A Cloud Computing Reality Check For VARs

There's no question that cloud computing is changing the channel game and giving solution providers a lot to chew on, but at COMDEXvirtual a panel of cloud computing insiders looked beyond the hype to discuss how VARs can best take advantage of the changing technological landscape.

Judith Hurwitz, CEO and president of Hurwitz & Associates, a consulting, research and analyst firm in Needham, Mass., called cloud computing an "important, but confusing phenomenon" and cautioned solution providers and end customers to not dive headlong into the cloud right away, but instead to ease into the transition off of on-premise systems.

Hurwitz spoke during a cloud computing session at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.

"It's a very interesting time because whenever we have one of these massive technology transitions some people sort of assume that everything will be cloud or not," she said, adding that the move to the cloud starts with a roadmap and a strategy, not a leap of faith. "What we're finding from a best practice standpoint is people have to be comfortable first. They have to try things. A lot of customers are beginning, for example, with doing testing or development in the cloud. It's not as risky as putting everything in the cloud, but it gives them a feeling for it."

Sponsored post

Phil Wainewright, vice president of Procullux Ventures, a London Web services and consulting firm, disagreed.

"Sometimes leaping feet first into the cloud is the best approach," Wainewright said, noting that aging, cumbersome and expensive on-premise gear could be the impetus for moving to the cloud in one fell swoop, which could result in a safer, more reliable and more secure IT environment. Sometimes, he said, a radical approach is needed.

But once solution providers determine whether their clients are going to dive right in or take baby steps into the cloud, the question becomes whether those customers require a private or public cloud infrastructure.

Wainewright said he's skeptical of private clouds, noting that that takes away some of the main drivers for cloud computing: connectivity, community and innovation.

"If you take the computing out of the cloud, you can't call it cloud computing," he said.

NEXT: Going Hybrid

Later, Wainewright added: "The cloud is all about being connected. It's all about participating in this connected 24-by-7 real-time world that we operate in now with a global scale with the ability to connect to customers and employees and partners and to be able to link up with them to tap into new resources as they come online. If you don't have that connectivity into the cloud, you're missing out really on the true benefits of cloud computing that make it distinctive."

For resellers, Wainewright said, the key will be offering hybrid cloud solutions to help clients with the migration from on-premise and integration of key internal assets with cloud resources.

Hurwitz, too, noted that resellers will find success with hybrid public and private cloud in the long run, likening it to the evolution of intranets and extranets and how they blended and are no longer seen as dramatically different animals.

Regardless of which direction solution providers take in the cloud, it all comes down to being a services player, said Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, a cloud and SaaS consulting firm in Wellesley, Mass. Kaplan said companies are fed up with inefficiencies of IT and that is pushing them to the cloud. For resellers the good news is that it puts partners in direct contact with the users so they can see the transition first hand. The bad news, however, is that the channel now has to think in terms of services vs. products.

And to take advantage of the changing market, solution providers have to be ready and have to start tailoring the services they offer to fulfill new customer requirements, said Stuart Williams, Software Business Quarterly practice manager at Technology Business Research, a market research firm in Hampton, N.H.

"The most important thing [solution providers] should be aware of is that the market is beginning to segment itself out," he said. "Sellers should be extremely aware and attentive to the requirements of the buying end users as they begin to outline their specifications."

Register now to attend COMDEXvirtual or to access on-demand sessions.