The migration of services delivered through cloud-based resources is causing tectonic shifts across the IT vendor landscape and one area of the market that's been unsure about what it means has been channel resellers. But the channel is finally finding its groove in the cloud, according to a new study.
IT industry trade group CompTIA annually surveys its members asking how channel vendors are embracing the cloud computing trend. Four years ago, only four in 10 surveyed said they were involved in cloud computing services. Last year, that number jumped to 85%. This year, all 400 vendors said they offer cloud computing services.
As the cloud industry continues to mature, it's becoming clear that a dominant consumption model for businesses using cloud-based resources will be through the channel. Value-added resellers (VAR) have played an important role in how end users have acquired IT resources for a long time, and that's not going to change in the cloud, says Carolyn April, director of industry analysis at CompTIA.[SDN: Are you ready for network virtualization?]
"We've seen a shift," she says. "There's been a lot of uncertainty in the channel about what their role would be in this market." Some channel vendors worry that the cloud would make it easier for vendors to sell directly to customers. Instead, VARs have found their niche.
April says the channel market in the cloud has broken down into four major categories: building cloud services for customers; integrating cloud services into existing systems; supplying ongoing management of cloud services or being a trusted consultant on cloud projects. "It's a natural extension of what the channel has been doing in the past," she says.
CompTIA found that the top cloud services delivered by channel partners include email, virtual desktop deployments, help desk, storage and analytics.
In some cases, cloud companies are selling directly to customers. Market-leading IaaS provider Amazon Web Services, for example, has a massive outreach campaign for users to engage directly with the company for consuming resources.
Other companies are embracing their channel. HP, VMware and CA Technologies, for example, each package "cloud in a box" offerings that allow resellers to package their products and offer ancillary services such as installation setup and integration work for end users.
The cloud is opening up new relationships, too. Google, for example, has not traditionally had a large channel market, but its cloud platform and enterprise apps are sprouting new resellers and integrators. Cloud Sherpas, for example, is a consultancy that works on migrating customers to cloud-based resources, including Google's.
Gartner estimates the cloud market is a $131 billion industry this year, and 63% of resellers reported to CompTIA that their customers have a high or very high interest in exploring cloud resources.
There will be a maturation process though, CompTIA found that only 46% of the resellers said their offerings in the cloud products and services are completely mature. The trade group pointed to a lack of professional consultants for implementing cloud deployments as a hindrance for more widespread adoption of cloud consulting services. Meanwhile, end users are concerned about security, downtimes, integration concerns and data portability, CompTIA found.