REMEMBER THE EARLY, easy days of cloud computing? All you had to do was tell clients what the cloud is, overcome a few objections, and then start rolling out Office 365 licenses, with a few Microsoft Azure workloads thrown in for good measure perhaps.
Bad news, warns Jamison West. Those days are over.
“That’s a thing of the past. It’s a commodity,” says West, a former channel pro who is now CEO of Teamatics, a maker of cloud-based performance development software headquartered in Redmond, Wash.
Worse yet, that model is increasingly out of step with what cloud users want from an IT provider. “It’s no longer about educating customers about what is the cloud and why it’s important,” says Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Wellesley, Mass.-based cloud computing and managed services consulting firm THINKstrategies. “It’s about helping to determine how individual organizations can capitalize on what the cloud has to offer.”
Put differently, the cloud computing revolution is rapidly entering a new phase in which businesses that were experimenting with software and infrastructure as a service just a few years ago now want to leverage those investments to achieve serious competitive advantage—and channel pros who can show them how stand to make serious profits.
Call it Cloud 2.0, for want of a better name, and brace yourself, because it’s set to bring a whole new set of challenges and opportunities your way soon. Here are nine steps you can start taking today to get ready.
1. Embrace New Infrastructure
Whether you’ve got a thriving Cloud 1.0 practice or are still a relative newcomer to cloud services, the first step on the road to Cloud 2.0 is familiarizing yourself with the underlying infrastructure you’ll be using. According to West, that can be a disorienting process even for experienced channel pros.
“You have to understand what the new environment looks like and be comfortable that it doesn’t look like it did five years ago,” he says. “Everything’s changed.”
For Microsoft partners in particular, West continues, “everything” encompasses a host of familiar technologies, including that most fundamental mainstay of SMB networks, Active Directory.
“Microsoft Active Directory is dead,” West declares. “When I said that five years ago, people kind of laughed at me. They don’t laugh at me anymore.” Even Microsoft, he continues, is steering people toward its cloud-based Azure Active Directory identity and access management (IAM) service instead. Though mastering the differences between the two platforms takes some time, West observes, the effort ultimately pays off. Unlike its on-premises predecessor, Azure Active Directory supports single sign-on, multifactor authentication, Android- and iOS-based mobile devices, and more.
Not a Microsoft fan? Amazon Web Services, Google, and smaller companies like IAM specialist Okta all have online directories as well, West notes. Just make sure to pick something cloud-native and begin studying its intricacies soon.