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COLUMN: Your Strategic Service Provider Brand Versus Cloud Suppliers

The Channel Company’s Executive Chairman Robert Faletra says strategic service providers need to assess where cloud infrastructure market is headed and how they can grow and retain customers.

White technology providers battle it out to gain share in cloud infrastructure sales, strategic service providers need to assess where the market is headed and how they can grow and retain customers.

While Amazon Web Services holds the lead in public cloud infrastructure, Microsoft is nearly as dominant. The third slot is less settled. Google Cloud holds the position now and, while it’s hard to imagine it will lose the position, it’s not a lock. IBM Cloud is a serious threat over the long term if the newly energized company under Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna can step up the company’s program and relationships with its strategic service provider channel.

Google Cloud is well positioned in the enterprise, and IBM’s no slouch there either—and IBM may have a better story in the midmarket and lower end of the enterprise.

Oracle is a sleeper as well. But it has a very strong direct sales force and a weak channel, where it has never put enough emphasis.

For strategic service providers, picking the right technology providers to partner with is important. The good news is once you have done that, those brands fade into the background with the customer and your brand becomes the dominant one.

But it’s also important to think about how you advance your brand relationship and the solution set you build for customers that both meets their needs and keeps you in the game over the long term.

Let’s face it: Selling Infrastructure as a Service is important, but it’s not terribly sticky. Basic Software as a Service isn’t all that sticky either. But Platform as a Service, or PaaS, is a far more complete and complex offering that pushes your relationship with the customer to a far more strategic place.

When you are providing hardware, software and infrastructure for running and managing multiple applications in the cloud, you are a complete technology provider to your customer. No matter what problem or opportunity arises, it’s your brand and service that gets the call.

One of the advantages of this sales model is that it can grow from a small offering to a much larger one. As end-of-life events occur with on-premises solutions, it’s easy to move those solutions to PaaS and grow your business with the customer.

There are other avenues to growth with your PaaS deployments. Depending on the customer, there may be compliance issues that need to be steadily upgraded. In the health-care field, for instance, compliance issues are always a challenge because of ever-changing government regulations. These are far easier to handle in the cloud via PaaS and are a key selling point.

Hardware and software refresh also is an added service to the customer set. It’s also easier to handle through a single relationship with a strategic service provider than the customer having to chase dozens of vendors individually. In short, the customer has outsourced a major headache.

There are other selling points that make PaaS sticky.

One selling point is that security is easier to handle via PaaS. It’s unquestionably the best way to set, manage and maintain a viable disaster recovery plan, which in today’s world of increasing ransomware-based hacking attacks is incredibly important and top of mind among all businesses.

PaaS also makes it far easier to manage and service a remote workforce that is increasingly dispersed and mobile and that needs secure but easy access to data and applications.

Positioning your brand to deliver these services puts you squarely in the strategic service provider space, which is sticky as well as profitable.

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