2017 Cloud Partner Programs Guide: Bringing Clarity To Cloud Challenges

The cloud can be a daunting undertaking for solution providers. Challenges abound -- from issues of deployment, migration, management, integration, and workload governance. Add to that data security and mobile identity management, and it's enough to have any solution provider crying for clarity. That clarity can come from a well-constructed partner program.

CRN's annual Cloud Partner Program Guide is aimed at helping solution providers navigate the cloud market's many twists and turns through highlighting companies with partner programs that are best positioned to boost a solution provider's business.

Not all partner programs are created equal, of course, and will include different requirements for investing and different opportunities for a solution provider to reap profit. But understanding those differences is the key.

It's the channel-focused cloud companies with robust partner programs that will be the most appealing to partners. At the same time, solution providers need to educate themselves on the cloud, and do it quickly, said Ted Schuman, CEO of master agent PlanetOne.

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PlanetOne, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has always emphasized its cloud-first approach, as opposed to staying within the traditional telecom boundaries. Today, PlanetOne doesn't have any cable suppliers within its portfolio. Instead, the master agent offers a selection of about 40 cloud service providers that have a history of success in the channel, as well as SD-WAN and UC players, and connectivity and wireless carriers.

Schuman said that about 75 percent of PlanetOne's partners are selling some form of cloud services today, and that number is on the rise.

At Sophos, meanwhile, customer demand for cloud is driving changes to its partner program. Kendra Krause, vice president of global channels at Sophos, which has its North American headquarters in Burlington, Mass., said the cloud requires solution providers to adapt quickly to a different world--one that includes an understanding of the recurring revenue model.

"We have 2,600 partners in our MSP program that are doing cloud management. They are doing what we call flex billing, which is monthly billing," said Krause. "We've only had this program for a little over a year and from launch to now, it's continually growing. Our monthly billing is growing 20 percent month to month consistently. It is our largest percent. … There are still a lot of hybrid partners. There are still a lot of traditional partners and there's a huge market for that, but more and more are going to this model."

"Customers are moving their data centers into the cloud and so partners are turning around saying, ’Oh my gosh, I need to learn this market, how do I secure it, what do I do?' It's a different world and so they're trying to figure out how to secure it," said Krause.

"Now of course, we need to make sure it's channel-friendly, we need to make sure they're commissioned on it. We need to make sure it's part of the partner program and that's been a big change this past year," said Krause.