The two simple words which kicked off the inaugural Reseller News Distributor Roundtable in New Zealand last month, which say key channel players discuss how cloud computing is affecting distribution.
Straightforward in delivery but complex in interpretation, defining cloud is proving to be a meticulous task for the channel market, with the devil very much in the detail.
Despite its labelling as mere hype by the buzzword barmy army, behind the veil of media sensationalisation and marketing rhetoric lies a term that is significantly changing the ICT landscape as the channel knows it.
Yet for an industry led by distributors and followed by resellers, to move forward in unison shouldn’t cloud, in all its ambiguity, be appropriately characterised?
“Before we get started let’s put down some strong definitions,” opened Darryl Grauman, APAC Services and Cloud Director, Westcon. “Because it isn’t difficult to take hardware and software and cloud wash it really easily. So the real question is what’s actually hardware, software and cloud?”
While the rebranding of old services through a deceptive game of cloud word association is a method well highlighted, Grauman’s approach to cloud reflects Westcon’s own pathway to the skies, from the olden days of shipping boxes from A to B to the licensing world of software distribution before emerging at the gateways of the cloud, and all it encompasses.
“When I look at cloud I look at it as-a-service,” adds Grauman, who helped spearhead Westcon’s global cloud initiative, which was developed in New Zealand. “I look at it as software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service and I believe once you get that definition right, as a distributor you can begin to provide a value wrap.”
Built through acquisition, Grauman’s Westcon is a Westcon opening the door to cloud service providers, enhancing the distributor’s catalogue and making it relevant.
For Westcon now holds virtual inventory, possessing global buying power and the ability to aggregate everything at a global level, as the US$6 billion company moves away from adding value through warehouses in hardware and licensing in software.
While Westcon’s transition reflects the journey of the traditional distributor, at Rhipe headquarters however the self-appointed Cloud Channel company has lived and breathed cloud air since the company’s inception, operating as a born-in-the-cloud distributor with a focus on offering value-add to services providers.
Yet for Stephen Parker, VP Market Research, Rhipe, the term cloud still remains as much as a marketing phrase as it is a piece of technology, but crucially for the channel, it has flipped the balance of negotiation between resellers and customers.
“Balance in the respect that customers are now driving the conversation instead of the channel,” added Parker, emphasising the growing opportunities for the channel within the cloud space.
“The channel used to be in that nice position of saying we know new things are coming down the line and coming into the market and we’ll choose when we launch them to our customers because we have all the cards and all the knowledge.
“Whereas customers are now saying, ‘hold on I can do this, this and this’ and informing what our partners are having to do so our value-add changes.”
In positioning Rhipe as the new way of channel distribution, Parker, who helps businesses “find their cloud story”, believes cloud is “just as much about how a change is driving decision makers in technology.”
“We all have our places as distributors in the middle ground,” he explained. “In creating value between vendors and customers, as distributors we do the same thing, we just have our own ways of doing it.”
Consequently, Parker believes the cloud has jolted the channel into understanding that the transaction of today should be made with the transaction of tomorrow in mind.
“We’re invested in ongoing success rather than how big we can make the sale today,” he added. “Today’s transaction is, at minimum, 1/36th of what we want it to be in the cloud.”
Across the table of industry leaders, and since embarking on Distribution Central’s cloud journey over two years ago, Managing Director Nick Verykios views cloud, and its emergence within the channel as an alternative pathway to market, not to be discarded or discredited, but also not to be billed as the all important and all conquering technology of today.
Instead Verykios finds the middle ground in the cloudy channel world, taking an objective approach because simply speaking, “cloud is not a product.”
“I can’t sell a skew called cloud,” he added, offering his experienced definition to the discussion. “It’s a pathway to market and a way that a specific solution is organised to be able to solve a customer problem in a way that it wasn’t before.”