Be Nimble, Be Quick: How GreenPages Transformed Into A Cloud Powerhouse

Ron Dupler

GreenPages Technology Solutions CEO Ron Dupler, a 24-year channel veteran who has received a number of awards for transforming the national Kittery, Maine-based solution provider into a cloud powerhouse, spoke with CRN Editor News Steven Burke about the company's cloud business transformation, including GreenPages' new cloud-management-as-a-service (CMaaS) offering. Following are excerpts of the conversation.

CRN: Talk about your new cloud offering.

Dupler: It is available today. We can support physical, virtual and cloud-based infrastructure through a single pane of glass today. We are actually using the technology internally as well.

There is another part of CMaaS that goes into cloud governance and governance models in a cloud world and cloud services brokerage. That is what we are integrating and bringing to market very soon.

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CRN: How big a game-changer is CMaaS?

Dupler: I think we are going to be well out in front of the market with this. I personally believe we can go have discussions right now and bring technologies to bear to support those discussions that no one else in the industry can right now.

That said, we know that the pace of innovation is rapid and we expect other organizations are trying to work on these types of initiatives as well. But we believe we'll be out front certainly for this year.

CRN: How does the solution provider business model change from 2013 to 2018?

Dupler: The way we are looking at our job and the job of the solution provider channel over the next several years through 2018 is to provide IT plan, build, run and governance services for the cloud world.

The big change is that the solution provider channel for many years has made their money off the fact that infrastructure fundamentally doesn't work very well. And it has been all about architecting and integrating physical technologies and software platforms to support the apps and data that really add value for the business.

When we move to the cloud world, this is now about integrating service platforms as opposed to physical technologies. So it is about architecting and integrating on-premise and cloud service platforms really to create IT-as-a-Service to support the apps and data for the platform. That is the transition that is under way.

CRN: Does the GreenPages brand become bigger than the vendor brand and how does that affect vendor relations in the CMaaS era?

Dupler: We continue to closely evaluate all our key partner relationships. That is managed very closely. What we try to do is make sure we are partnered with the right companies that are really leading this transformation. And our number one partner because they are driving this transformation is VMware. With this whole software-defined data center concept and initiative, VMware has really laid out a great vision for where this market is going.

NEXT: Does Size Matter?

CRN: There is a prevailing view that solution providers need to go big or go home, with many solution providers selling their businesses. Do you see scale becoming more important -- that you need to scale?

Dupler: No. People have been saying that for years. It is all about customer value and the talent of your team, if you are adding value for clients. You need to be able to service the client community. And they care about quality of service and the ability of your team. Not necessarily that you are huge. I have been down the M&A road and, as you know, we do M&A here on a smaller scale. And I will tell you there are pros and cons to it. You aggregate talent, but you also have got the inertia of pulling companies together and integrating companies and people and executive teams and getting through that.

I absolutely do not subscribe and never have subscribed to the fact that size in itself gives competitive advantage. There are some advantages, but there are also costs to doing that.

CRN: What is the ultimate measure for success in this new world?

Dupler: It is a combination of three things: technology, and I will firmly say it doesn't have to be homegrown. It could be homegrown or it could be commercial off-the-shelf. It is the way the technology is leveraged and having the technologies with the ability to drive the services you are trying to provide. What we are trying to do with CMaaS is single pane of glass management for the physical, virtual and cloud infrastructure, which I have mentioned, as well as cloud service brokerage and cloud governance services. You can either develop those on your own or integrate partner technologies or both, but you need the supporting technology base and you need people and you need process.

CRN: How big a transition is this and what percentage of VARs do you think will make it to 2018?

Dupler: The companies that I think are going to have a huge challenge are the big product-centric organizations right now. The DMR [direct marketer] community. They have some big challenges ahead of them over time. All these guys are trying to come up with cloud strategies as well.

Right now there is a premium on being nimble. That is the word of the day for me in 2013. Nimble. You need nimble people and you need a nimble business organization because things are moving faster than they ever have. You just have to have a culture and people that can change quickly.

Going back to is it good just to be big? Sometimes it is hard to maintain [that agility] as you get really big. The magnitude of the change that is required to succeed over the next five years is extremely significant. And people that aren't already under way with that change have a big challenge ahead of them.

CRN: What is the pace of change like managing in this business as a CEO vs. five years ago?

Dupler: It is exponential.

CRN: Is it tougher to manage in an environment like this?

Dupler: You say it is tougher, but there is more opportunity than ever because of the pace of change to really differentiate yourself. So it can be challenging but it is also very stimulating and exciting.

CRN: Give me five tips you need to thrive in 2018.

Dupler: First of all, you need hybrid cloud management capabilities.

Number two, you need cloud services brokerage capabilities. It is ultimately an ability to provide a platform for clients to acquire as-a-service technologies from GreenPages. To be able to sell the various forms of infrastructure, platform and software as a service.

Number three is cloud architecture and integration capabilities.

Fourth is product revenue and profit streams are not central to supporting the business. The service model needs to become a profitable, thriving stand-alone entity without the product revenue streams.

The fifth thing and it is the biggest challenge. One thing is migrating your technology organization. Then the next thing you need to do is create a services-based sales culture.

CRN: Talk about how big a change that is.

Dupler: It is a huge change. Again, if people are not already under way with this change they have a huge challenge ahead of them. Everybody I speak with in the industry -- whether it is at [UBM Tech Channel’s] BoB conference or at partner advisory councils -- everybody is challenged with this right now. The sales force in the solution provider industry has been old paradigm physical-technology-based and needs to move into a world where it is leading with professional and managed services. And that game is very different. So I think there are two ways to address that: one is hiring new types of talent or helping the talent we all have transform. It is going to be a combination of both that gets us ultimately where we need to be.

CRN: What do you think is the biggest mistake being made right now by competitors or vendors?

Dupler: What I see is people that are afraid to embrace the change that is under way and are really hanging on to the past. The biggest mistake I see right now is people continuing to evangelize solutions to customers that aren't necessarily right by the customer, but conform to what they know and drive the most profit for their organizations.

Short-term gain isn't going to drive long-term customer value. And we need to lead the customers forward through this transformation as opposed to perpetuating the past. The market needs leadership right now. The biggest challenge for people is not moving fast enough to transform their businesses.