Putting a Channel Face on the Cloud
Filed under: Cloud Computing
Amazon, Google and others may leverage the channel to compete more aggressively in the enterprise
There’s a lot of contention these days not so much over whether customers should embrace cloud computing as much as what’s the right path to get there.
This debate has some significant implications of solution providers that are being asked to represent various cloud computing service providers, especially in the enterprise. One knock that cloud service providers such as Amazon and Google routinely get in the enterprise is that from a support perspective they are known as "faceless entities." There is generally no one to talk to at these companies in terms of support and the service level agreements (SLA) these organizations provide are all but meaningless.
As a result, there are now hundreds of different cloud service providers looking to recruit channel partners to resell cloud services that offer higher levels of differentiated services. But as big an opportunity as that may be, it’s also only a matter of time before Amazon, Google and others start to aggressively go after more enterprise customers. That creates something of quandary for solution providers that can choose between established enterprise companies that have moved into the cloud and organizations such as Amazon and Google that are starting to move in that direction.
In fact, Joshua Bixby, president of Strangeloop Networks, a provider of network appliances for the speeding of Web applications, says he expects to see the emergence of a pretty robust channel that will essentially add "a face" to Amazon and other currently faceless entities in the cloud. At some point Amazon and Google have to expand their base of customers, which means it’s only a matter of time before they get serious about targeting enterprise customers.
Already many enterprise customers are hosting their application development projects on Amazon. When they decide to move those applications into production many of them either run them on a private cloud they manage or they look for an enterprise-grade cloud service provider to run the application. But if Amazon would stand behind SLAs and create a channel to provide customers with the hand holding they need; a lot of those applications would be rolling into production on the Amazon cloud.
As it is, many smaller companies are just looking for the path of least resistance to the cloud, which generally involves a credit card and a call to Amazon. But as these companies mature many of them are going to be looking for additional levels of support, which in theory would create a ready base of customers for solution providers that provided cloud consulting services. From Amazon’s perspective having to deal with a hundred of those consultants is a whole lot more profitable than setting up a customer support organization to support thousands of customers directly.
No doubt there are more than a few startup organizations in the channel that have already moved in this direction without any formal agreement with Amazon, Google or anyone else. That may create some liabilities for them in terms of support, but given the nature of the application workloads involved it’s probably a risk worth taking. And should Amazon, Google or any of the cloud service providers that are not looking to the channel to get more serious about the enterprise have a change of heart, it will be startup channel organizations that have cultivated personal relationships at Amazon or Google that will most likely have the inside track.