It’s a hot topic, popular on the news, and featured in TV commercials. Many seem sure that cloud computing is the key to the future of technology. But what does it mean when we talk about the cloud? We’ve asked our vendor partners to answer the most common questions about this technology trend and explain what VARs can do to profit in this new area of computing.
Simply Defining the Cloud
Cloud computing is often defined as moving software applications, that might otherwise reside within a business’ data center, into a shared data center, essentially renting computing power and software. So in a nutshell, it’s all about information and how we access it. For a good comparison, think Google Docs versus Windows Office. David Green, Senior Director, WW Channel Solutions Readiness and Alliances, Motorola Solutions, explains that, “The term ‘cloud computing’ simply refers to these applications and their related data operating within a cluster, or ‘cloud’, of web-based servers.” Cloud computing often shares computer resources with other applications and, in some cases, other businesses. Armando Delgado, Distribution Channel Manager at Logic Controls, explains that, “Users can access and store data through a simple application, such as a web browser, without constructing a complex information storage center.”
The term cloud computing has taken on many different definitions throughout the industry, asserts Dan DeBacker, Avaya’s Director of Data Solutions Architecture. “There are many different aspects of the cloud, such as the public cloud, the private cloud, and the hybrid cloud. Each of these is defined based on who owns the infrastructure and how that infrastructure is provisioned,” says DeBacker.
The physical resources for cloud computing may reside in a number of locations inside and outside of an organization, explains Matt Krebs, Business Development Manager, AVHS at Axis Communications. “These can be located on local hardware, in an enterprise data center, or at remote or managed service providers on a pay-to-use basis. Cloud computing resources are offered as a service on an as-needed basis and delivered by IP-based connectivity, providing highly scalable, reliable on-demand services with agile management capabilities.” Because the service provider hosts both the application and the data, the end user is free to use the service from anywhere.
The Power of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing brings benefits across three categories: economic, architectural, and strategic. “By moving to the shared resources, expensive specialized facility costs, air conditioning, fire protection and data services can be spread over many businesses at a much lower cost,” says Alan Percy, Director, Market Development at AudioCodes. “The incredible processing power, virtual machine capabilities and widespread network access available today make cloud computing a very cost-effective alternative to enterprise-located applications.”
There is opportunity for you to offer your customers the flexibility and scalability they will need as they continue to grow. Dan DeBacker (Avaya) expects to see users become more device agnostic and worry less about how they access content, as it will not necessarily be stored locally, but instead reside within the cloud. “Users will not be consumed by the processing power requirements of their local workstation, but instead share the processing power that resides in the data center,” says DeBacker.
“Besides providing tremendous benefits of pooled computing resources,” adds Matt Krebs (Axis), “cloud computing maintains the security and reliability of a normal dedicated in-house server application, but without the overhead of managing and maintaining it.”
In terms of social networking, Jeremy Burton, Dialogic’s Distribution Manager, Americas, says that, “Using cloud-based communications provides click-to-call capabilities from social networking sites and access to Instant Messaging systems and video communications, broadening the interlinking of people in the social circle.”
The Silver Lining
Cloud computing provides some strong benefits and, with the proper deployment, can provide significant savings, better IT services, and a higher level of reliability. According to Armando Delgado (Logic Controls), cloud computing is already revolutionizing business procedures by allowing them to become more efficient and should continue to prove itself useful into the future. By adapting cloud computing, says Delgado, “Resellers can help end users drastically cut down the costs on manpower, products, and endless software upgrades.”
As manufacturers move to fill niches in vertical markets, resellers can uncover a wealth of possibilities in these areas. Organizations, like warehouses, for example, can add and delete resources as needed, while dynamically updating infrastructure elements and moving workloads to improve efficiency without having to worry about creating new infrastructures for each new application. Says Matt Krebs (Axis), “Resellers will want to take advantage of several cost benefits provided by cloud computing. These include the price and performance offered by readily available servers, the ability to mitigate skyrocketing data center development and operational costs, and utilizing a shared infrastructure rather than creating new platforms on an application.by-application basis.”
Furthermore, resellers can provide the same functionality of a traditional server-based application with a fraction of the overhead cost.
“Cloud computing implementation creates a fast sales cycle, and the rollout time of the solution is greatly reduced, enabling internal resources to be refocused on additional initiatives,” says Green
Alan Percy (AudioCodes) agrees that there are opportunities to make margins on the services as businesses migrate their applications to cloud computing. “Resellers can get started with cloud computing by representing wholesale cloud-based services – effectively reselling the services. A more aggressive approach would have resellers building and operating their own cloud computing data centers.”
The requirements for voice, video, fax, and data are something else resellers should consider. Jeremy Burton (Dialogic) says that these can be addressed within the communications services in the cloud. “Increasingly, HD voice and video communications are being used. These services support better conferencing capabilities and help reduce costs further by reducing the need for expensive travel,” says Burton.
To the Cloud
To improve success, Alan Percy (AudioCodes) suggests that resellers talk to their customers and find out whether cloud computing is something in their strategic vision. “During this discussion, determine what applications/resources they see hosting in the cloud environment,” says Percy. This opens an opportunity to match the customer demand with the planning, ensuring that the reseller can make informed decisions about scaling their cloud-based offerings.
Keep it simple. “The use of standards-based technologies will also help to ensure access to the widest addressable market of customers. Creating proprietary lock-in solutions will only hamper flexibility in the future,” cautions DeBacker (Avaya).
David Green (Motorola Solutions) points out that communication connectivity is another important element when utilizing mobile computers with cloud computing. “A cloud application technically is operating on a cloud server, and the user interface is controlled on the mobile computer. Reliable communication connectivity is a must for success,” says Green.
Knowing how the cloud can work for you is the key, so is educating yourself on the benefits of cloud computing. Matt Krebs (Axis) adds that having a grasp on how the cloud relates to the physical security market is critical. “Understanding the technologies, strategies and ecosystem of the cloud will provide a much clearer picture of how you can leverage its power and benefit from what the technology has to offer,” says Krebs.
Not So Clouded Judgment
Clearly, there are many opportunities for resellers to help end users achieve their business goals cost-effectively and with the enterprise level of service they require. So what pitfalls should you watch for? While it’s often been said that networking and computing evolve quickly and can also create threats, Chris Koeneman (Bluesocket, Inc.) maintains that, “Cloud Computing is not necessarily a threat for an equipment VAR, but it does call for flexibility in a VAR’s business model.”
“The Cloud is here to stay,” contends Dan DeBacker (Avaya). “There is little doubt about that. The key is to figure out the right strategy for its use. There is not a single correct answer, as it truly depends on the business requirements of the Enterprise – fortunately the Cloud is flexible and can mean different things to different people, but at some common intersection it is all about virtualization, mobilization, efficiency and saving money,” says DeBacker.Learn more about this topic at catalysttelecom.com >