Symantec To Partners: We'll Help You Find Your Way In Cloud

That's one of the key messages from Thursday's opening session at Symantec's Partner Engage 2011 conference in Phoenix, Ariz., where roughly 300 channel partners gathered to hear about the company's latest technology advancements and about its vision for a cloud services oriented future.

How to build a scalable services organization is one of the biggest issues that Symantec partners are currently facing. Symantec last year shifted to a partner-led consulting services model as a first step down this road, and it now has partners leading services engagement across all market segments, CEO Enrique Salem told attendees.

"That transition was questioned initially, but it has gone well from partner perspective," Salem said.

Symantec is planning to roll out a program later this month called CloudSmart, which will first set the foundation of Symantec's own definition of the cloud and then provide guidance to partners on how to make money from selling cloud services.

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However, while Symantec has made strides in illustrating the role its channel will play in cloud services, much work remains to be done at an industry level to hammer out the finer details of the cloud business model.

Tiffani Bova, a vice president with Gartner Research, believes cloud adoption will be slow until the channel figures out how to make money. "Without [partners], cloud is not actually going to come to fruition," Bova said in a presentation at the event.

In Bova's view, one of the toughest adjustments for partners will lie in forming new types of relationships. "This is really going to force your hand: You might have to start working with telcos, distributors and cloud providers in a way you haven't worked in the past," she said.

Part of the risky transition from products to services is finding the right salespeople, which can be a challenge since traditional product sales skills don't necessarily carry over to the cloud. "You might have sales reps that can sell the heck out of a product, but aren't as good at selling services," Bova said.

Symantec currently delivers 16 cloud services, including high availability, endpoint protection, backup and recovery. In the future, Salem said, very few Symantec products won't be moving to the cloud.

Earlier this month, Symantec launched Foundation 6.0, a series of storage virtualization and application availability updates that reproduce public cloud functionality in the private cloud container that most enterprises favor.

"It's important to remember that cloud doesn’t come in a box. We want to show how to use what you have to build the private cloud your customers want," Salem said.

O3, Symantec's forthcoming cloud security platform that's slated for launch early next year, automates data protection and governance and is designed to allow users to get access to information in a way that's acceptable to IT departments.

In a presentation, Angela Tucci, Symantec chief strategy officer, said O3 works by using identity as a basis for allowing single sign-on to cloud services.

"We need a way to bridge public and private clouds to ensure productivity, so CIOs don’t have to worry that the board slides are sitting on Dropbox," said Tucci. "We're extending IT's existing authentication and management solutions, including federated identity."

Looking ahead, developing unique intellectual property will be what differentiates partners in the marketplace, according to Bova."This isn't going to be about what you can resell, but what you can create internally to separate you from the pack, regardless of your provider partner," she said.

In the future, cloud services brokerage, or the ability to pull together multiple cloud services from different providers, represents a major area of opportunity for the channel, Bova said at the event.

"Cloud services brokerage will represent the single largest revenue growth opportunity in the cloud by 2015. This is an opportunity for the channel. Without brokerage, cloud computing will struggle," Bova said.