There continues to be a cacophony of marketing noise from technology vendors about their cloud strategies; while the announcements sometimes include messaging for their channel, many partners are still unsure of their future role in the industry. Nearly two years ago, Tim Harmon and I (Peter O'Neill here) published two reports on this, and earlier this year the Cloud and Technology Transformation Alliance (CCTA) reported that its survey of 229 channel partners in North America revealed that 13% of the partners still lack a cloud strategy altogether and 42% describe their strategy as “nascent” or “evolving.” CCTA also collected the alarming statistic that 65% of channel partners know that they’re losing business because of their cloud shortcomings; that is, the partners know that their customers are asking for cloud services but cannot react.

I have regular unofficial “inquiries” with channel partners here in Europe resulting from vendor-client engagements where I am involved in partner training. I offer my email address and am happy to invest my time in answering their inquiries because the questions I get from the partners informs and enriches my research. Based on these conversations, I can report that the picture in Europe is not much different than the above numbers. I usually give them this advice: Pick a project team of sales and support people — perhaps 5% of your workforce — and have them put together one cloud service version of an existing products and services. Sometimes that means switching vendors, but often the existing product vendor already has a cloud version available. When the team is ready, it should go out and sell the cloud version to new customers as a new branded service line. This project team will gain experience in how to sell, how to bill, and how to pay for the cloud service.

I am looking forward to discussing this and other hot channel topics at the upcoming Channel Focus Western Europe 2012 conference, which will be held on November 13 and 14 in Brussels. This event is organized by Baptie and Company, which hosts and manages many partner communities and services for tech vendors. I am sure that the event will be well-attended by senior executives working with the channel in the IT and telco industries — many have told me that they will be there.

My last observation on the topic of channel and cloud is to point out the great cloud strategy being executed by COLT Technology Services. My colleague Tirthankar Sen wrote a great blog post a few months ago about distributors and telcos not cooperating enough on cloud computing. COLT has made several moves in the last months to promote its VMware-, EMC-, and Cisco-based cloud offerings through a channel. In April, the service provider launched SmartOffice, a “franchise program” for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK, targeting three to five partners per country. In September, COLT made two strategic plays: first signing up value-added distributor Magirus as its first cloud services distributor and then acquiring the vendor ThinkGrid, which provides cloud business management services such as billing. ThinkGrid also has a partner ecosystem that encompasses more than 300 partners that build and deliver public and private clouds.

What do you think? Are there other shining examples of cloud partner strategies you know about? Please let me know. As always, I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics. Always keeping you informed! Peter