It has been a cloudy time in more ways than just the weather conditions. Over the past few weeks I have had the good fortune to present on cloud computing at the Ingram Micro Showcase events in Auckland and Wellington and attend CloudCamp in Auckland.
At the latter event I took part in a lively and enlightening discussion about how cloud offerings (from Microsoft and Google in particular) were likely to impact the local reseller community and I thought it might be a good idea to capture some of that discussion here and reflect a little on the column I wrote on the same subject back in February.
Firstly, there was almost universal agreement at these events that adoption of basic, cloud-based services such as email is accelerating. Google certainly got the ball rolling with Google Apps (and even plain-vanilla Gmail) and now that Microsoft Online has entered the market, and Microsoft has declared it is “all in” in regards to the cloud, that acceleration will only increase.
A small number of local resellers were identified as being at the leading edge of pushing these new offerings, but the general consensus was the vast majority of their competitors probably weren’t moving as quickly as they need to in the face of one of the biggest computing paradigm changes in decades.
That then triggered a discussion at the events about what was needed from the major vendors for them to help their channel partners successfully navigate and survive the increasing rate of cloud services adoption. The primary issue identified was the relative lack of training being made available to resellers to help them learn about cloud services and rapidly lift their technical and sales skills to ensure they can take advantage of this opportunity, along with the new ones which will inevitably spin out of all this change.
Additionally, the ‘per user, per month’ charging model, which is becoming a de facto standard, will require many resellers to revisit and, I suspect, revise their P and Ls, financial strategies and cashflow plans. Again, I think this is an area where vendors could and should provide leadership and training resources.
One of the discussion participants at CloudCamp was Dr Michael Snowden, the head of cloud specialist firm OneNet. The firm is effectively competing head-to-head with Microsoft and Google, but he has an extremely good business plan and a crystal-clear view of the value his company can deliver that the big guys cannot.
One point of differentiation is the fact that his servers are located here and, therefore, the data stored on them is subject to New Zealand legislation. A comment at CloudCamp was it seems to be vendors saying data sovereignty is not an issue. I think that might have been a little harsh and I think we will see a lot of discussion on this topic over the coming months, as CxOs and legal advisors grapple with the implications of “exporting” their company, employee and customer data to datacentres in Asia and the US, in particular.
Historically, major technology changes have always provided new and varied opportunities for the thousands of companies who make up the local reseller community. My personal view is that cloud computing will create new opportunities, (integration services being an obvious one) but it is also going to reduce a number of the existing ones (such as deploying email, file and collaboration servers and software).
As always, it is up to resellers to ensure they are moving with the times, but I think vendors need to move just as quickly to provide them with the skills and training they need. If they don’t I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Snowden starts receiving emails and phone calls from resellers who are more interested in re-selling his services than those of his bigger, offshore competitors.
Brett Roberts is a partner at business strategy consultancy Business IQ and Microsoft’s former CTO. He can be contacted at brett.roberts@businessIQ.co.nz