Interview: Welcoming resellers to the cloud

Interview: Welcoming resellers to the cloud

Why did you decide to hatch InfraServe?

We started InfraServe because we saw that cloud computing was coming and as a reseller we couldn’t find a distributor that we could buy it from and we certainly didn’t want to build our own cloud either. We believed that you didn’t have to build and own a cloud environment to resell it. In our search we did, however, find some cloud vendors and also a lot of the traditional computer vendors were talking about how they were planning to resell cloud and we then realised for cloud computing to scale one needed to have the traditional supply chain model in place. While the traditional distributors will most probably swap over to distributing cloud, we knew from experience that changing over from a transactional model to a recurring revenue based model is a long hard road. We have the “battle scars” to prove it.

When you add up the speed at which cloud computing is kicking in, coupled with the SMB market demand for cloud we saw a clear gap in building a “Cloud Only” distributor that could make it easy for resellers to supply cloud to their customers.

What are your top areas of focus? Business value to the channel?

Our main focus area is simple, any “pay per use” cloud computing service that has a reseller model. Our value to the channel is that we will find the right cloud computing services (we call them products) that suit the 5-1000 seat customers. Besides providing lead generation, marketing and channel education, our core value is the provisioning and billing engine that we provide our authorised partners to use for our cloud products or any other third party products they choose to provide.

What initiatives do you have planned over the next year?

At this stage we've only got firm plans for the next 12 months as we have just started and the cloud market is moving and changing rapidly. If we spoke about any of our long range plans we would be telling lies. For the near term, however, we are selecting and recruiting the right resellers for our Authorised Reseller Partner Program, bedding down our current partners, finding the right cloud computing products to distribute and further recruitment of staff.

Is it tough being a new kid on the block? Starting a new business always has its challenges but with no proven players in this space is making it slightly easier. No doubt it may get harder as more and more people attempt to enter this market. However it is a large market and not since the launch of the personal computer have I seen this level of fear, excitement and opportunity all at the same time. Cloud computing really appeals to everyone from the one man band through to the large enterprises, so there is enough market space for all.

What are your biggest challenges as a distributor?

Finding the right resellers who really understand where cloud sits within their business? Today they are far and few between. But that's okay because part of our value is assisting them to make the transition.

What type of partners are you aligning with?

Mainly with what we call the Tier 2 resellers who are typically represented in one or two states, have a loyal client base and sell professional/managed services. The key here is they have moved into selling cloud computing or seriously want to do so.

Are we seeing a big shift in the market these days thanks to cloud computing?

Absolutely. Just look at the recent announcements like Microsoft declaring they are “ALL IN”, NTT buying out Dimension Data to form the biggest cloud computing business in the world, CA have a dedicated cloud division and the list goes on. Every week there is another announcement about entrants into the cloud. Is it better to be a traditionalist or an innovator right now? We feel one should be a bit of both actually. As far as cloud goes it is not a silver lining and the market will need hybrid solutions, so mixing experience and innovation to provide the right solutions to the end customer is best.

What do you see as market trends moving forward?

The end customer will disinvest in their back end infrastructure. Networking and the end client devices will still be in high demand but the type of device will change. Not much will change for resellers that provide services. All of the above will still require back office and front end implementation and maintenance.

What advice can you give reseller partners looking towards the cloud?

Choose carefully. Like we saw in the early days of the PC a lot of dodgy PC vendors, we will see the same problem in cloud computing. Not only does the infrastructure have to be sound, one needs to ensure they have the provisioning, billing and support systems that can scale. Also ensure you own the client contract/relationship and control the billing.

Are we over the worst of the market downturn?

Right now we are over the worst of the current downturn and enjoying a small upswing. This will be short lived and we will have a bumpy ride over the next 24 months. The reason I say this is that nearly all of the market recovery has been attributed globally and in Australia by the intervention of governments. As they withdraw their support we will see market fluctuations occurring. I also think we are going to see a lot of profit taking in the stock markets making markets unpredictable. In Australia, however, this will be flattened by our population growth and the annual influx of migrants.

How many staff do you currently have? Any plans for expansion?

Currently we have a small staff compliment with a part-time marketing person and service desk. All our second and third level support we get from our vendors, so while we are small, we have our bases well covered. We do have a plan for expansion in all areas of our business, sales, marketing, finance and service desk. We are very efficient thanks to the cloud and the automation we have built into our billing and provisioning engine. Without these we would have had to startup with at least 10 - 15 staff. Proof that cloud computing is the way to go for any start up business or new business division.

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