Cloud Channels

I’ve written a few articles about the changing role of the channel in the cloud era. The expressed outcomes are a bit too neat. The truth is that the next couple of years will be transitional from old channel conventions to the new status quo.

The Azure application marketplace is not an ecommerce platform yet and subscription management is mostly left to Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), integrators and third party vendors, such as Apprenda and Zoura. When the application market place if truly launched it will most likely not support enterprise licensing or cloud sourced subscription bundles. Value Addded Resellers/Integartors are still expected to put solution sets together facilitating the resulting subscriptions mess.

How will a distributor help a cloud ISV take product to market? ‘Ingram Micro’s Cloud Conduit program provides channel partners with a comprehensive portfolio of cloud-specific enablement resources and service offerings including Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), educational tools and resources such as face-to-face engagements, business development resources, sales training and webinars.’ Sounds like all that a growing ISV might need. The press release I copied the text from also mentions that ‘as part of the Cloud Conduit initiative, Ingram Micro is pursuing three distinct relationships with Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Hosting and  Amazon Web Services is working closely with Ingram Micro to bring the benefits of the AWS platform to Ingram Micro’s many channel partners.’ No mention of Microsoft Azure, even though Ingram Micro is also the largest Microsoft distributor in the world.

Pinpoint/application marketplace will already provide a comprehensive portfolio of cloud-specific application offerings. BizSpark and WebSpark programs have enablement services partner listings for start-up ISVs to engage for help; and honestly there are not that many that have the in depth skills-set to really add value on a strategic level. The Developer Evangelist Group and the ISV Incubation Centers are pushing educational tools, business development support, training and webinars. So I ask again, what is the role of distribution in the Azure ecosystem?

If I put my ISV hat on and what I think I would need. Well yes, I would like my solution listed in as many application marketplaces as possible. Depending on my target market I would put more emphasis on one marketplace over another. With volume enterprise solutions I would on the short term look at what the distributors are doing, until the Azure Application Marketplace is fully matured to handle enterprise volume subscriptions and subscription bundling. I would say that the majority of ISVs need help with strategic cloud planning, business development, architecture/migration support and general training. I would expect Microsoft to highlight a number of service provider options within their programs. I would be really helpful to have map of the Azure cloud ecosystem influencers, multipliers and integrators by vertical competency, so that I can effectively plan my branding and outreach. I would also like to see a ‘cloud alley’ in all of the major MS conferences in 2011, so that I can get a ‘helicopter perspective’ of what the ecosystem looks like and what people are doing.

Ecosystem mapping is something that I’ve been doing in the MS ecosystem since 2007. In 2009 I actually mapped the cloud IaaS, PaaS and SaaS communities globally. Now is the right time to focus on SaaS and the supporting channels for Microsoft Azure.


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