SOFTWARE-AS-A-SERVICE solutions like Microsoft Office 365 are old hat among channel pros these days. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), by contrast, is still virgin territory for most cloud service providers. Indeed, according to data presented by Irvine, Calif.-based distributor Ingram Micro Inc. at its Cloud Summit event last April, partners are responsible for 55 percent of cloud computing revenue generally, but just 20 percent of IaaS revenue specifically. In this Q&A, Tim FitzGerald, Ingram’s vice president of cloud channel sales for North America, explains why and how channel pros should be getting in on the IaaS action.
Q: How big an opportunity is infrastructure as a service for channel pros relative to software as a service?
Tim FitzGerald: Massive, but it’s a different opportunity. First of all, small to medium customers are predisposed to move everything to the cloud at a rate faster than larger customers. So that’s kind of a table-setting statement: There’s a tremendous opportunity in infrastructure as a service, because not all [SMBs’] current workloads can be consumed in a SaaS model. They’re going to have certain things that likely have to run in an infrastructure-as-a-service environment.
And by the way, [there’s a] tremendous opportunity for a partner to do managed services—make sure [the] environment’s backed up, well governed, secure. As far as overall market size, I think the infrastructure-as-a-service opportunity’s actually growing faster.
Q: What are the key IaaS opportunities for a partner?
FitzGerald: If you think about it in the context of a partner’s sales cycle with a customer, there’s an opportunity for a partner to sit down with the customer and inventory their current workloads and help to build a map, including time frame, on what do you do with those workloads for deployment into the future.
If it [were] me, I’m going to be thinking about things like, of those workloads, which of those are available in a SaaS-deployed model? Is it economically efficient, easy to do the migration, data protected, secured, well governed? All of those wonderful things. Some of those workloads won’t be able available in the SaaS model, so they’ll be more of a lift-and-shift opportunity, and there’s an opportunity to migrate them from deployment in a customer’s data center or in a collocated data center, potentially to being deployed in a hyperscale environment.
So assessment on the front end, migration, and then ongoing management of that environment … [There are] lots of opportunities in that whole process for partners to make money.
Q: How hard a sell is infrastructure as a service right now in the SMB space?
FitzGerald: If you look at the rate of growth in infrastructure-as-a-service-oriented providers, the indication would be it’s not a tremendously difficult sale. There’s lots of different metrics you could look at. You could say, “Wow, there’s still a relatively small percentage of the overall infrastructure spend that’s happening in [cloud] infrastructure, therefore it’s really complicated.” I think, you know, your mileage may vary. It’s really dependent upon the specific customer’s current workloads, or what they’re trying to do moving into the future and what they’re trying to solve that indicates how complex or not it might be.
Q: How steep is the learning curve? What do you need to learn and who do you need to hire?
FitzGerald: Designing infrastructure solutions in a cloud deployment model requires a different competency set than designing infrastructure solutions in an on-prem solution set, if you will. There is some transferable skill, but if you know on-prem, you don’t automatically know public cloud. There’s some knowledge gain that needs to happen there.