According to Gartner, in 2010 only 2% of all cloud transactions went through the channel. Today, that percentage has risen to 20%, and it's continuing to grow. One of the reasons for this growth is that savvy resellers are finding new services that fulfill an important role between cloud providers and end users. This new role is creating what's becoming known as the cloud services broker (CSB) business model. The term cloud services broker is defined as IT consultants, MSPs, and VARs that offer intermediary services, supporting fast adoption and maintenance of cloud technologies.
As end user IT departments have undergone significant changes in the past decade -- always being asked to do more with less -- IT managers and CIOs have come to view the cloud as being a key resource to enable their IT goals. A 2012 Garner article titled "Survey Analysis: Cloud Services Brokerage Playing a Larger Role in the Future of IT Services
" revealed the following highlights:
This trend of companies aligning their IT departments as internal CSBs is a driving factor in how resellers can mirror this function in their roles as external CSBs, often serving as extensions of their customers' IT departments.
- The internal cloud services brokerage (CSB) role is emerging as IT organizations realize they have a responsibility to help improve the provisioning and consumption of distributed, heterogeneous and often complex cloud services for their internal users and external business partners.
- The combination of commercial and technical challenges of consuming cloud services from multiple providers will often be a trigger point for IT organizations to begin thinking about adopting the internal CSB role.
As a VAR/MSP who's seeing cloud solutions and services becoming a growing part of your organization, where do you fit into this trend?
Here are a few areas where you may be able to add value to your customers' internal CSB efforts:
1. Management of disparate cloud-based assets
. If you evaluated your customers' IT landscapes you'd likely find that they're using a myriad of cloud providers and services that are becoming very difficult to manage. Helping customers manage these disparate cloud resources is one service you could offer.
2. Cloud relationship management
. In addition to the technologies and services your customers are using, there are cloud provider relationships and complex SLAs that must be managed -- especially considering the fact that the SLA of one cloud provider is often interdependent with another cloud provider's SLA.
3. Compliance and security risk management
. Do you have clients in healthcare that have to comply with HIPAA/HITECH regulations? Do their cloud services meet these industry standards? One of the brokering services you could offer would be to evaluate their cloud services and make sure they're using the correct data encryption standards and only HIPAA approved cloud data centers for storing patient data.
As you continue to evaluate cloud solutions and services to sell to your clients, ranging from hosted Exchange to cloud-based backup, don't overlook the opportunity to provide more consultative services your customers need to complement their own internal CSB initiatives.