What should you seek in a cloud services partner?

Integrators and VARs focused on brokering cloud services should be able to demonstrate skills in aggregation, integration and customizations — or, perhaps, all three.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

By the end of next year, research firm Gartner predicts that about 30 percent of the Fortune 1000 will be working with at least two cloud services that they need to broker together for their external and internal users.

As a result, spending on IT projects to integrate, customize or aggregate those services could reach an estimated $100 billion by that timeframe, according to one of its recent reports ("Examining the Magnitude of the Cloud Services Brokerage Opportunity"). 

So, what exactly does your organization need as it considers its own transformation?

Here's how Gartner's principal analyst Tiffani Bova describes the different models in her November 2012 report, "Service Provider Primer: Cloud Services Brokerage." The following are her three basic definitions, which should guide how you go about assessing your own cloud services partner:

  • Aggregation: Skill sets that can help bring together multiple cloud services "at scale." That includes things like provisioning, single sign-on, unified billing, and management. This could be as simple as providing a dashboard where all of your employees access their cloud applications.
  • Integration: Obviously many of the same skill sets apply, but the focus is on bringing two services together for an "integrated result." It might involve linking two applications, for example, that are hosted in the cloud, so that updates in one are reflected in the other. 
  • Customization: Pretty much as it sounds, the focus is on adding to or changing a service's capabilities, maybe to accommodate processes that are specific to your organization or to change the interface.

Gartner's research among CIOs and IT managers has shown that all of these skills (along with management) are considered important for carrying out cloud strategies or handling migrations more than half the time, but most IT organizations don't currently support them internally. Thus the need for external cloud services brokers such as the ones that I've begun profiling here in Next-Gen Partner. 

Can you simply use your existing, traditional IT services provider to handle these projects? The answer is "maybe," especially if you're trying to integrate cloud capabilities tightly with existing IT infrastructure, and their team hasn't resisted the transition because it presents a threat to its legacy business model.

But look carefully for evidence of existing or previous cloud implementation and migration work that fits into the three areas above, or your own project could become a grand experiment for both sides.

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