Cisco To Partners: You're Leaving Cloud Services Money On The Table

Cashing In On Cloud

It's hard to overstate the impact cloud is having on the IT channel. Apart from placing big bets on new products and vendors, solution providers are tasked with transforming their business to accommodate the recurring revenue model that comes with cloud services sales.

And, while the opportunity for solution providers selling cloud services is huge, there are some avenues that are often overlooked. In an interview with CRN this week, Bob Gault, vice president of worldwide cloud and managed services at Cisco, highlighted five cloud money-makers for partners that stretch far beyond the actual sale of a service. These opportunities ring true not only for partners selling Cisco InterCloud, but cloud services in general, he said.

So, take a look -- and make sure you aren't leaving money on the table.

A Cloud Business Case

There are several opportunities for Cisco partners to make money before the actual sale of a cloud service, according to Gault. And one of them comes early on in a customer's cloud adoption life cycle: building a business case.

Partners should take on a consultative role to help a customer plan a detailed, three- to five-year business plan, outlining the investments it would need to make, and the benefits it would see, when deploying a cloud service, Gault said. These plans, he said, should detail everything from line-of-business requirements, to specific ROI figures, to which workloads should or shouldn't be moved to the cloud.

Pat Moscarelli, senior vice president of innovation at Global Technology Resources Inc. (GTRI), a Denver-based Cisco partner, said building a business case and understanding a customer's desired business outcome with the cloud is always step one for GTRI.

"It's about really understanding what's driving the change and which business outcomes they are trying to achieve," Moscarelli said.

Cloud Infrastructure Assessments

Another money-maker for partners before finalizing a cloud services sale, Gault said, is an infrastructure readiness assessment.

Just like a customer needs to create a cloud business plan, it needs to do a full assessment of the existing infrastructure before taking the leap to cloud. This gives partners an opportunity to offer more consultative services, aimed at helping a customer understand whether its existing WAN or LAN architectures are cloud-ready. At this stage, partners should be examining everything from a client's storage capacity to bandwidth or CPU requirements, said Gault. In some cases, these infrastructure assessments could lead to additional hardware or software sales.

Moscarelli said GTRI has a formalized network assessment process in place for cloud deals. "There is always more complexity under the covers than you imagined," Moscarelli said.

A Full Application 'Sweep'

Like they do with a client's infrastructure, partners should do a full "sweep" of an enterprise's application landscape before rolling out a new cloud platform, Gault said.

In what represents another lucrative consulting opportunity, Gault suggested partners analyze all aspects of the applications running in their client's environment. They should know which apps, for instance, are running remotely or locally. They should understand what each application's licensing model is, or whether the app operates in a shared or dedicated environment. This, Gault said, helps partners determine which applications are better suited for a private or public cloud.

To take advantage of this kind of consultative role, he said, some partners might need to bulk up their resources. "Partners may need to take a look at the skill sets they have in place today and make a decision whether the people they have in place can have these kinds of conversations with customers," Gault said.

Service Selection And Deployment

After partners guide a customer through the infrastructure and application readiness assessments, it's time to go through the cloud service selection and deployment process, Gault said.

In addition to selling and deploying the actual public or private cloud service, partners should again wear a consultative hat, Gault said, ensuring that the selected service will meet a customer's requirements for reliability and scale. Partners also should be mindful of whether the service is in line with compliance standards for select vertical markets, in addition to the specifics of the SLAs and, of course, overall cost, Gault said.

Cloud Services Support

Even after a customer's migration to the cloud, partners' work is far from over, Gault said. In fact, the post-deployment stage is one of the most lucrative, Gault said, given the role they play in supporting the service and helping enterprises keep tabs on their costs.

"IT often loses visibility into the costs that are being incurred in the world of cloud," Gault said.

GTRI's Moscarelli agreed, noting that the managed services opportunities and continuous "health checks" GTRI provides after a cloud services deployment are becoming a significant part of its overall business.