Khaled Kamel, Territory Channel Manager, MENA at Brocade Communications, says that the advent of cloud brings with it both opportunities and challenges for the channel. As Service Level Agreements (SLAs) begin to play a vital role in maintaining customer relationships and driving business, the integrity of the network will become a key factor for success. As enterprises migrate business processes to the cloud, the network will play an increasingly prominent role. Irrespective of wherever it is and whoever owns it, the underlying physical infrastructure must still be optimized for cloud delivery. Herein lies the opportunity, as channel partners play a critical role in the design and delivery of the network.
Cloud may be the buzz word; but transformation – complex, confusing, and potentially costly – is vital, and is the first step on the journey to the cloud. The cloud is definitely not ‘plug and play.’ Which is why providing a clear path to cloud and providing solutions to remove the complexity, confusion and reduce the cost, is where the channel comes into its own.
One of the key impacts of cloud, convergence and virtualization is a disruption of the classic IT model. This is perhaps most visible and has the greatest impact on the channel: where the classic network design and architecture does not serve its requirements anymore.
The old school of thought was that it is ‘easier’ to sell in the market leader. Because, the customer has heard of them; because, there is a level of confidence in buying from the ‘biggest’. And that view was probably true back when channel were predominately pure play resellers, when box shifting sales brought good margins.
In the era of the cloud however, there has been a paradigm shift with emphasis now heavily placed on value addition. Revenue relies on services sales, and the competition is hotter than ever, with new suppliers coming to market all the time thanks to the cloud. Channel partners need to identify the vendors that have tailored their partner programs to help them realize this opportunity, and grasp the consultancy and services revenues it represents.
There exists a segment of VARs who are a dynamic, technologically savvy and business-minded. These partners are always looking ahead and working to ‘adapt’ their skill sets and businesses to address the needs of their customers in light of the availability of new technologies and solutions, and changing business imperatives.
The ability to place a finger on the market pulse and identify customer pain points is what should drive this adaptation. One of the serious pain points that customers have today is shrinking CAPEX budgets. The channel can convert this into an opportunity by offering something new and different in terms of a new pricing model i.e. offer a subscription/ utility based pricing model for networking solutions. The channel can offer customers an alternative to CAPEX dollars for their network upgrades.
From a channel or systems integrator perspective, this is the perfect play for customers with a limited budget, and those that need scalability for particular programs. It is really a game changer and should be considered by those that genuinely want to help their customers be successful.
As the cloud levels the IT playing field, customers will now look for the best-in-class, not the biggest; and vendors will be pushed to deliver solutions that are more open, flexible and cost-effective in a mixed environment. The days of ‘rip-and-replace’ are over. Customers can’t afford it any more. And this is where the channel is key– playing the role of integrator, trusted advisor and expert. Channel can help bring old infrastructure and new together to deliver performance improvements, cut complexity, reduce management and maintenance costs, and enable virtualized environments and cloud.
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