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Managing Multiple Clouds Still Challenged By Lack Of Comprehensive Management Platforms

Two pioneering solution providers discuss the challenges and benefits of selling services around multiple cloud platforms at the NexGen 2018 Conference and Expo.

Two solution providers that helped pioneer the cloud reseller model shared their insight Monday into managing multiple cloud environments for customers large and small at the NexGen Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Sean Ferrel, chairman and founder of Managed Solution, and Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, told attendees of the conference hosted by The Channel Company that customers want cloud partners to help them take advantage of services from multiple providers, but the tools currently available are limited in facilitating that work.

Ferrel, who focuses on the enterprise as a Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud partner, said the large enterprise tech vendors in recent years realized the value of working directly with partners—as opposed to their legacy model of everything going through distributors.

[Related: MSP Toolkit: What Solution Providers Need To Do To Keep Customers For Life]

As customers increasingly sought purchasing guidance from trusted IT consultants, the large vendors "decided they were going to go to services companies and allow us to wrap our managed services around their cloud strategies," he told NexGen attendees.

For innovative partners, that shift presented a tremendous business opportunity. But "if you're going to sell multi-cloud to your customers, you need to have engineers and salespeople that can sell across all of them," Ferrel said.

The multi-cloud reality is different in the SMB space, Falcon said, as it's typically more about integrating and deploying multiple Software-as-a-Service solutions like Google's G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce.

But despite their different business models, Ferrel and Falcon agreed the management tools available are still lacking in their capabilities.

There are a lot of solutions focused on enabling MSPs, Ferrel said, citing platforms like CloudHealth, recently acquired by VMware; Cloudyn, acquired by Microsoft; and Cloudability.

"You're looking at investing in multiple tools," Falcon added.

But "we are not yet at one screen to manage multiple clouds," Falcon cautioned. "We're getting closer."

Falcon said it's important for multi-cloud partners to gain expertise in coordinated security and access control. That imperative is ushering in the era of the Cloud Access Security Broker.

Single sign-on on is in the rearview mirror, he said. The new paradigm requires coordinated permissions that don’t just manage who can log on, but once they do, what data can they see and what they can do with that data.

"You also have to start thinking about identity management. Integrate the identity of who's actually doing the work, and from what devices and where."

In that multi-cloud era, partners won't get rich reselling services alone.

"For every $1 of license margin, we want $7 of service margin," Falcon said. Services are what generate profits for cloud practices.

Caleb Driscoll, founder and president of Froogal, an IT services company based in Minneapolis, told CRN after the presentation he was happy to hear his two peers talk about the dearth of tools available to manage multi-cloud, multi-device environments.

"It was interesting that they're bringing to light the awareness of lack of toolsets in the industry. It's nice to know that I'm not alone in the concern about where are these management tools, these resources," Driscoll said.

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