NexGen Cloud Conference To Help VARs, Vendors Team Up

IT solution providers want to crack the mysteries of the cloud; cloud vendors are desperate to develop their channels. And yet partnering remains a serious challenge for both types of organizations.

Which is why next week in San Diego presents such a unique opportunity for all involved in the channel—two collocated events that share the theme of helping vendors and solution providers forge partnerships that allow both to thrive.

The Channel Company will host XChange executive briefings and meetings leading into the first-ever NexGen Cloud Conference & Expo, taking place Dec. 4 and 5 at the San Diego Convention Center.

[Related: NexGen Cloud To Feature Industry Thought Leaders]

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In addition, the fourth Cloud Channel Summit, a peer-to-peer networking forum hosted by strategic consultant THINKstrategies, also takes place Dec. 3 at the San Diego Marriott & Convention Center. The summit brings together channel executives from leading technology vendors and solution providers for discussions on partnering strategies.

"The reason for collocating these two events was to start building the ultimate destination for a cloud partner conference for both vendors and partners," said Robert DeMarzo, senior vice president of strategic content at The Channel Company, the Westborough, Mass.-based publisher of CRN.

It's appropriate the two events should coordinate efforts. Jeff Kaplan, managing director at THINKstrategies, says he conceived of the summit after delivering a keynote at a Channel Company XChange conference five years ago.

Kaplan, who will moderate a vendor panel at the NexGen conference, said the Channel Company's conference and expo will be a boon to "a lot of it solution providers who are either scared of the cloud or uncertain about what to do in the cloud marketplace."

"Those companies need greater insight and information to help them better understand how to safely transition their business to both deliver cloud services, and to take advantage of those cloud services to run their own business," Kaplan told CRN.

He noted the two San Diego events are especially relevant because "there's been a lot of tension between vendors and channel partners ever since the cloud materialized."

In the early days of the cloud, Kaplan explained, many channel companies thought there would be no role to play in delivering cloud services that could be purchased direct by customers. They were concerned about losing their status as a trusted advisor, fearful of losing control of customer relationships and wary of the economic pressures from commodity pricing of resources.

"There was a myth early on that the cloud would enable ISVs to work directly with customers and not need a channel anymore," said Alex Brown, CEO of 10th Magnitude, a solution provider based in Chicago.

"By and large that has not proven correct. The need for the channel to support customers is huge and growing, however, still very different from what we did in the past. And I think that’s what this conference is all about," added Brown, who will sit on a NexGen panel and also deliver a presentation.

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NexGen is the first conference that seeks to provide answers about transforming channel businesses to a cloud model from a solution provider's perspective, he said.

"The peer-level content is just fantastic," Brown told CRN.

Brown's keynote will share knowledge he has accumulated over the last few years in best practices for marketing cloud services. Those best practices have greatly changed from technical, sales and financial-management perspectives.

"It's different. It's not like running an on-premise solutions business," Brown said.

NexGen brings together "a roster of vendors who are ready to talk directly to the channel about how they can enable new solutions and earn profits," Brown said, adding, "this is what the channel has been clamoring for."

Several vendors will participate both in the THINKstrategies forum and in the NexGen Conference and Expo.

Kaplan told CRN those vendors will make clear there are many opportunities for partnering, and solution providers who adopt best practices will have many opportunities to succeed.

"The buyers have changed. The people you're selling to have changed. Their needs during the sales process are radically different," Kaplan told CRN.

Customers expect a different level of support and education during the sales process and solution providers need to learn new ways to engage those customers, he added.

"If you take tried and true techniques from the last 15 years, you're not going to see a lot of traction," Kaplan said.

Brown said it's a better time to be a solution provider than he has seen in many years, and vendors are trying to figure out how to connect with those businesses.

"Vendors realize the cloud still needs the channel. So it's a question of how are you going to get to the right people and how are you going to help them make money," Brown told CRN.