2014 Cloud Partner Program Guide: Where Is The Cloud Taking Business?

Cloud is more than a buzzword and much more than tech hype. But the real-world, evolving picture of how and why businesses of all sizes and in all sectors are migrating IT operations to cloud providers is somewhat tricky to describe. The accelerating pace at which companies across the spectrum are moving workloads to cloud environments and adopting a wide variety of services makes it difficult to extrapolate trends.

This increasingly rapid transition suggests that we might one day look back at 2014 as a tipping point year for cloud adoption among enterprises and small businesses alike. For solution providers specializing in the cloud computing market, business is growing at breakneck pace.

CRN's first-ever Cloud Partner Program Guide puts the spotlight on those companies that have put significant resources into cloud partner programs and are backing up their channel with training, support and more. Because if it's one thing that's clear, the cloud is showing no signs of slowing down.

[Related: 2014 Cloud Partner Program Guide (Part One)]

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2nd Watch, an Amazon Web Services premier partner based in Washington state, has seen 400 percent growth in year-over-year bookings.

"I've seen change in the market over the last six to nine months," Matt Gerber, executive vice president of sales at 2nd Watch, told CRN recently.

"It's gone from, 'Is it safe enough, secure enough, reliable enough?' All of those are gone, and now it's, 'How do I do it?'" Gerber said.

But for many organizations in this age of mobility, the advantages to be gained from the cloud have ­finally gotten to the point where they outweigh concerns about security and privacy. Even companies running mission-critical applications and hosting sensitive data are warming to the concept of ditching their data centers.

For small and midsize businesses, a market more conservative when purchasing IT, the cloud offers alluring ­financial and accounting benefits.

Dee Dee Lear, vice president of cloud solutions and business development for Arrow Electronics, which offers cloud resellers a webstore through which they can purchase and provision best-of-breed cloud solutions, told CRN that small businesses are choosing "the cloud route because it gives them predictability without a lot of risk on the ­financial side of IT investments."

Small businesses are less burdened by legacy software and systems. It's usually easier for them to port IT infrastructure, move workloads to the cloud, and Software-as-a-Service applications that ­fit their business needs. For enterprises, migrations are usually more challenging, but the benefits can also be more substantial.

Because enterprise companies often are running mission-critical applications on company servers, they are more likely to seek out Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions onto which they can port their custom applications, Lear's colleague, Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of marketing for enterprise computing solutions at Arrow, told CRN.

"When you move upstream into the larger organizations, they have a lot more legacy-based IT, so that slows down their ability in some applications," Koliopoulos told CRN.

Enterprises are more likely to test cloud migrations ­first at branch of­ offices not tied to their headquarters, which has the interesting consequence of "changing the buying center from the CIO to a line-of-business guy," Koliopoulos said.

Next: 'Everything-as-a-Service'

In recent years, much of the cloud discussion has revolved around storage—everything from adding off-site capacity, to data backup and recovery services, to ­file linking and sharing. Application development, for which the cloud is used to quickly "spin up" servers adding computational capacity, is another common and well-established use.

But 2nd Watch in the past year has started to see a shift to wider-ranging acceptance, with enterprises jumping into the deep end of the pool and opting for full "lift and shift" data center migrations, said Jeff Aden, a co-founder and executive vice president at 2nd Watch.

"Our customers are looking holistically at, 'How much can I move and how I can move it?'" he said. Companies operating in ­fields where innovation is a requirement for survival are especially bold, migrating entire data centers or moving toward a cloud-based DevOps-shop model, according to Aden.

"We're seeing companies in this particular buying wave that are much more aggressive toward moving to the cloud. The ones that get it are moving faster than what we anticipated last year. Now we're seeing the traditional companies move much more aggressively," Aden told CRN.

Aden cited publisher Conde Nast, which just moved a 300-server data center all to the cloud.

In recent years, business units have gotten ahead of their IT departments in procuring software, bringing into their companies scores of undocumented SaaS applications. IT administrators are realizing they need to get ahead of this so-called shadow IT, and the best way to do that is embrace and manage the cloud services that employees want. "You're seeing central IT be a bigger part of where this all fits in," Aden said.

These companies must determine not only what services to deploy, but what kinds of clouds to build and technologies to use in building them. It's a daunting task for CIOs, business executives and accountants trying to figure out what it makes sense to do in the cloud today, and what's coming from just over the horizon.

Mary Hester, CEO of LAN Systems, an Atlanta-based managed services provider specializing in Microsoft cloud products, said the revolution in cloud technology is well under way, and MSPs and resellers must help their clients find creative solutions for their speci­fic needs.

"We can mix and match cloud services to assemble the best environment. If needs change, it is easy to expand and reconfigure cloud infrastructure. Combining the models of cloud and utility computing makes economic sense and maximizes the use of the world's computing power," Hester said.

Public, private and hybrid cloud solutions provide the economy and scalability to create unique solutions that never before were possible, she told CRN.

"Today, it's Everything-as-a-Service. From SaaS to IaaS to PaaS, companies of all sizes are able to be more productive, solve complex IT system requirements and reduce costs by using cloud solutions," she told CRN.

Cloud adoption often starts with email and of­ office-productivity products, Hester said.

A recent survey conducted by cloud services provider Evolve IP documented huge gains for Microsoft's products. Among the IT professionals who responded, 30 percent used Exchange Online, 19 percent used Of­ Office 365 and 14.5 percent used Lync. Many companies considering the cloud told Evolve IP that Office and Exchange were on their radar.

An increasing number of companies also are experimenting with virtual desktops. The Desktop-as-a-Service market is still in its early stages, but it's growing, according to a recent survey conducted by Citrix Systems.

Almost 90 percent of MSPs offering virtual desktops said they project significant growth in DaaS revenue over the next year. More than two-thirds of those respondents currently sell to the SMB market, and only 22 percent sell to big business.

While outsourcing line-of-business applications and desktop management to a service provider holds appeal for smaller businesses, service providers told Citrix there's a "pipeline of growing interest among larger business customers." So where's it all going? If this current year is an indicator, perhaps beyond what most IT pros imagine.

Arrow's Lear said one thing is clear—cloud adoption will continue to accelerate.

"A lot of that is driven by us as individual consumers and the demands that we put on the business to provide business outcomes through technology and to use technology to make business decisions. And the quickest way to deploy is the cloud," she told CRN.

The following pages highlight the companies included in this year's Cloud Partner Program Guide, with information provided in their applications. For details on each company and the particulars of each program, see the database.