NexGen Experts To Share Cloud Secrets

Solution providers planning to attend the NexGen Cloud Conference & Expo should come to San Diego next week with open minds and an eagerness to learn, but not with expectations for a paint-by-the-numbers plan for transforming into a cloud business.

Attendees of the first-of-its-kind event that will take place Dec. 3-5 at the San Diego Convention Center will gain insights from vendors and peers who have figured out aspects of the business. But while many of those presenters can share knowledge gained from their own successes in delivering cloud services, the cloud-business model is far from complete and settled.

"It's going to be a revolution over the next three or four years, so organizations getting in on the ground floor are going to reap the benefit. Learn all you can and see if this is viable for your organization," said David Linthicum, a cloud expert who will present a session teaching how to build clouds on top of clouds -- especially the big three: Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Azure.

[Related: NexGen Cloud Conference To Help VARs, Vendors Team Up]

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David Powell, vice president of cloud services at TekLinks, an IT services consultant based in Birmingham, Ala., will give a talk on how solution providers can embrace a cloud-based delivery model. Powell told CRN there's no standardized path to the cloud, and that it's still too early to go all-in with one cloud provider or offering.

"Spread your bets. For us, there's still no dominant emerging business model in this space," he said, citing companies like VMware, Cisco, Amazon, IBM SoftLayer and Rackspace, which are all experimenting with diverse offerings.

Linthicum said that enterprises and solution providers interested in hearing him talk about building custom SaaS applications on public clouds must understand there are no accepted best practices in the field. Prominent companies to have taken that path, like Netflix and Dropbox, both AWS customers, aren't sharing what they've learned through the process, he said.

The many product options on the market, and the hype coming from technology providers, he said, only make it harder for solution providers that want to sell cloud services.

"A lot of the channels are a little confused as to what their future holds if they start moving to public cloud. How do they become a value-added link in the chain? Well, this is a way to do that," Linthicum said.

Transitioning to a cloud-delivery model requires developing within the business new areas of subject-matter expertise and technological know-how, such as system architecture and development. But a large part of the challenge also involves making the business case to get those types of projects funded, Linthicum said.

"That's part of the discussion, as well, how to determine the value driver and bring it back to your organization, to select the best cloud provider that can provide you the most bang for the buck," Linthicum told CRN.

NEXT: No Need To Be Intimidated By Cloud

Legacy IT businesses are intimidated by the cloud, but they shouldn't be, Powell said.

"Whether architecting solutions on-premise or in cloud, the expertise is very similar. Just instead of a bill of material, you're just provisioning that in the cloud," Powell said.

"This is not too different historically from what they've been doing. They think it is because there's the self-service component. But while there's a dizzying array of solutions on the market from various cloud providers, the customer solution is still driven, architected and a value added by the solution providers, Powell said.

TekLinks has successfully made that transition and can serve "as a poster child" of a transformed solution provider, he said. The company still sells on-premise equipment, but also offers a managed-service component. It hasn't cannibalized its legacy VAR business with its managed cloud, Powell told CRN.

Fears that customers will go buy cloud solutions themselves are unwarranted -- most companies that aren't large enterprises don't have IT staff ready to extract themselves from day-to-day operations to figure out cloud deals and migrations.

Powell said that the more solution providers who choose to adapt, the better for the industry as a whole.

One reason is it will motivate manufacturers to also align with a true recurring revenue model. Some vendors are trying to have it both ways, he said, "selling the gear up front, and then providing a recurring model on the back side."

"Every customer is on a journey to the cloud. You can provide on-premise, or you can provide a managed service, or you can go full cloud where the customer doesn't own any of the apps," Powell said.

"We need you guys to transform your business as well, and it's not as intimidating as it may seem."