How multi-cloud computing is creating new opportunities for the channel

Johnny Carpenter, Director of Sales EMEA at iland looks at the value a cloud-experienced channel company can offer its customers.

For many organisations, the cloud journey has only just begun, while others continue to collect clouds as if they were coins or comic books. Both groups are venturing into uncharted territory.  

As CIOs are forced to leave traditional data centers and explore the cloud, they’re finding themselves in need of experienced scouts to clear the path ahead. This is especially true in the new frontier of multi-cloud computing where more companies are stacking clouds from multiple providers with little or no means to manage them. 

This moment is creating new opportunities for the channel, as cloud infrastructure services increase and businesses integrate multiple providers with existing on-premise infrastructure.  According to Canalys, cloud infrastructure services spending is set to surpass $143 billion globally in 2020, driven by IT channel partners.

A channel partner that manages a hybrid environment is in a turnkey position with customers, to offer flexibility through its different providers, but maintaining the primary relationship on a subscription basis, cementing sustainable long-term revenues. 

Getting into this privileged position will nevertheless require the channel to address how it works with Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and customers. How can channel companies best prepare for the future? What opportunities lay ahead and what value can a cloud-experienced channel company offer its customers? 

The opportunity of hybrid IT

A key factor is the growing trend for multi-cloud and hybrid IT. Abandoning the maxim of “standardisation at all costs”, businesses are realising they can effectively mix on-premise and multi-cloud infrastructure resources to get the optimum combination of speed, affordability, compliance and security. Recent research found 84% of companies have a multi-cloud strategy and enterprises with a hybrid public-private cloud strategy grew from 51% in 2018 to 58% in 2019 – a clear direction of travel towards a hybrid, multi-cloud future. 

Companies are looking to use the strengths of different CSPs and deployment models, depending on their application, data, compliance and performance requirements. The result they seek is a customised deployment that exactly meets the needs of the business.  The challenge is in selecting the right options. That’s the point where the channel and CSP partners can offer guidance. It is vital they team up to best serve customers and achieve success in the cloud.  

So, what are customers seeking from suppliers when deploying hybrid IT?

First, they want them to demonstrate deep understanding of the requirements and drivers behind the business’s IT strategy – consultancy skills need to be a key area of investment. Next, they want recommendations of the optimum services, deployment and integration, plus migration and ongoing support. They want to know how the partner will manage their data and applications across the various elements of their hybrid IT infrastructure.

Finally, they’re need partners to simplify the billing and management of cloud services. It’s no small challenge but one to which the channel is equal if it draws on its CSP partners to bolster in-house expertise.

Collaboration and trust

That’s why future channel/CSP partnerships must double down on collaboration to offer a service that is seamless from the customer point of view. This is especially critical when it comes to back up and disaster recovery (DR) services. Trust is a fundamental requirement of back up and DR.   The customer has to count on support and guidance when needed. There can’t be an arms-length relationship between customer, channel and CSP, it needs to be a true partnership.

When it comes to collaboration, channel businesses need to assess prospective CSP partners on what they will bring to the partnership. Can they assist with cloud scoping tools, concierge services for customer onboarding and migration? Do they have specialist skills that fit with the client demographic, e.g. a strong security and compliance offering? What can they bring to the ongoing customer relationship in terms of simplifying cloud management and billing? At the bottom line, will they help close the deal and keep the customer happy?

Flexibility is another key CSP attribute.  There’s no such thing as a customer “one-size-fits-all” so flexibility is needed when delivering cloud services. Inflexible partners cause needless bumps in the road to building a strong customer relationship.

There’s no denying that there is a huge opportunity for the channel to secure sustainable long-term revenues from cloud deployments while still benefiting from its expertise in on-premise deployments. Thanks to the predicted growth in hybrid IT, the key to success will be selecting the right partners to take along the journey.

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