Gartner: Channel Makeover Required For Cloud Success

cloud computing takes a stronger hold on the market

"Two things are becoming increasingly clear to me: the channel will be critical in broader adoption of cloud computing (and private cloud), and the channel is not ready to do this. The channel needs to be rebooted," wrote Thomas Bittman, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst in a research blog looking at the channel's role in cloud computing.

Those partners that don't reboot and embrace the channel's critical role in cloud computing, Bittman cautioned will be left in the dust and midmarket companies will not fully embrace the cloud.

"Until they are [rebooted], the midmarket, in particular, will leverage cloud computing in a slipshod and hit-or-miss manner," Bittman wrote. "Likewise, channel partners who don't reboot and adjust to the new reality (that more and more IT capabilities purchased by the midmarket will be coming from the cloud, and not through hardware and software sales) won't survive for long."

Bittman's warning jibes with a Chadwick Martin Bailey survey from late last year that found channel partners aren't adequately prepared to support customer cloud computing endeavors. The survey revealed that two-thirds of enterprises felt the channel isn't ready for cloud computing. When asked about their attitude toward channel partners' ability to support their transition to cloud computing, 54 percent of respondents said the channel needs additional training and resources to be adequately prepared, while 12 percent said their channel partners are not prepared at all. Thirty-four percent of respondents said their channel partners are very well prepared to bring them into the cloud.

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According to Bittman, there are three key opportunity areas for the channel to take advantage of cloud computing: assessments, transformation and broker.

Partners that tackle assessments offer basic education on what the cloud is and what it means and where organizations should focus their clod efforts. Essentially, Bittman suggested, channel partners offering assessments provide a starting point for the cloud and determine if a client should embrace private clouds, public clouds or both.

"The assessment helps put the channel partner into the decision-making process – rather than find themselves disintermediated and locked out," he wrote.

Partners can also take over the transformation for clients by helping them change, both on the business and IT sides. Successful cloud strategies require change at several levels: Processes, management, organization, skills, culture and politics. Bittman wrote that application re-design also falls into transformation.

Lastly, partners can take on a broker or aggregation role, to stay on with clients after assessments and transformations are completed.

"Most companies leveraging cloud computing will have several -- perhaps many – providers. The channel has the opportunity to aggregate those services, provide value-add integration and other services, provide insurance, deal with failures, monitor SLAs, be a single throat to choke. The white box for cloud providers. [sic] For private cloud, the channel can smooth the way to hybrid cloud computing, and remain the broker in the equation," Bittman wrote.

Bittman cautioned that the channel isn't quite prepared for the dramatic shift being created by cloud computing, but now is the time for partners to alter their course to take on the cloud.

"Is the channel ready for any of this? No way! Are the provider and vendor business relationships with the channel making this easy? No way (vendors/providers are completely unclear whether they want to own the customer relationship or not)! Will the midmarket be able to adopt cloud computing in large scale without the channel? I don’t believe so. Cloud is simply too hard, too paradigm-shifting, too 'cloudy,'" he wrote. "Time to start rebooting. Or watch the rest of the channel re-invent themselves for cloud computing and leave the rest in the dust clouds."