Cloud-related policies a growing channel opportunity

Gary Bixler speaking at Red Hat Cloud Symposium

Gary Bixler speaking at Red Hat Cloud Symposium

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – Solution providers looking to build their cloud business or enhance the profitability of their existing cloud business would be wise to look at some of the policy and procedure changes necessitated by companies moving to cloud, channel veteran Gary Bixler told solution providers.

Bixler, former channel chief at AMD and currently principal consultant at Bixler Enterprises, kicked off the first ever Red Hat Cloud Symposium as part of is Red Hat North American Partner Conference here with a presentation on some of the dominant trends in cloud computing in the channel. And the identified the business challenges companies face when moving to the cloud as one of the key opportunities for solution providers.

“Business are re-thinking policies and procedures, but as they go into full production [with cloud applications or infrastructure] and look towards IT transformation, this is all new to them,” Bixler, speaking in the capacity of a CompTIA channel educator, told attendees.

In fact, policy- and procedure-related challenges represented three of the top four big IT-related challenges that businesses say the cloud forced upon them, with specific issues including the need for new policies and procedures, the need to change those already in place, and the need for new IT decision-making policies that include cloud criteria. There are no surprises among the top policy areas being re-written by the cloud – security and storage of company data remain the big two, with the use of mobile devices, guidance over what areas appropriate to send to the cloud, and how approval processes for new cloud vendors. For solution providers, any one of those represents an opportunity to provide a packaged service offering.

“Best of breed solution providers find things they can sell over and over again that are template, and this is one of those things,” he said.

In addition to simply having those policies, organizations are getting more serious about measuring and enforcing those policies, with the number of companies with serious audit and compliance efforts in place has jumped over the last year.

“They’re starting to try to put some bounds around what can happen in these organizations,” Bixler said.

CompTIA tracks four categories of cloud activity in the channel – build, provide/provision, enable/integrate, and manage/support. About half of the U.S. solution providers it polled last year are engaged in any or all of the first three categories, with the latter category jumping to almost two thirds of all solution providers. Solution providers are adopting ideas brought to the forefront with the move towards managed services over the last decade for the cloud, Bixler said.

“Managed services isn’t so much a business model as an activity that becomes part of your business, and almost everyone has some managed services in their business at this point,” he said.

Still, challenges remain for solution providers, and those have remained pretty constant. Developing cloud technical and sales expertise remains the biggest challenge solution providers see, with financing and cash flow partners, finding the right business model, startup costs, and developing cloud marketing and sales messaging also providing significant headaches.

Bixler urged partners not to face those challenges alone. Along with trade organizations like CompTIA providing cloud education to the channel, there are a number of other places partners can go to get educated. Bixler urged partners to call on their vendors and distributors to up their game in term of cloud-related education, tools, and programs. And he suggested solution providers can also turn to each other to specialize on core competencies and connect with other experts to broaden their horizons.

“We see successful solution providers focusing on where they’re best, and partnering with another solution provider to provide the end-to-end solution,” Bixler told attendees.