Cloud Computing: Know Your Opportunities

*This article was originally published by The VAR Guy.

With cloud computing catching the attention of CFOs, COOs and CMOs, VARs need to ask the right questions to determine what companies are best served by a public, private or hybrid cloud architecture as the network foundation for their business applications.

Since the vast majority of companies still have a great deal of private infrastructure, they present a prime sales opportunity for VARs. That’s because they are looking to move workloads to the cloud, which can be used to supplement their current setup, often in ways the prospect hasn’t yet considered.

This is exactly where an informed and educated VAR can find opportunities proposing cloud solutions. It comes down to asking the right questions of prospects (focusing on the business needs and potential benefits of cloud computing scenarios) rather than selling the cloud to replace private infrastructure.


Businessman looking at cloud dollar signs

A Case in Point
For example, a hybrid cloud (virtual server) option can help top executives sleep better at night by providing the often-ASAP flexibility needed for peak server usage caused by spikes. Hybrid cloud approaches can help also by providing necessary geographic diversity for disaster recovery applications.

Selling Points
Public, private and hybrid cloud architectures enable businesses to move workloads to a cloud foundation, but not always for the reasons (replacing capex spending on servers and storage resources) that some might think.

Because infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers generally drop their prices for storage and computing power much slower than Moore’s law would suggest, what often drives prospects toward the cloud opportunity is savings in people costs.

If a company hands off its server configuration and management nationally or even worldwide, prospects realize a huge manpower savings. VARs that look purely at hardware costs and processing power, without manpower savings, will find themselves fighting an uphill battle against the prospects simply buying more servers.

Know Your Options
Public: A public cloud approach typically enables access via the Internet and access to administration tools for those that are authenticated. At the application level, the ability to make changes to the computing infrastructure quickly and easily in a virtualized scenario is paramount. That’s because outsourced server operations without virtualization are notorious for their slow change management. That’s a big part of what killed application service providers (ASPs) in the early 2000s.

Private: A private cloud approach requires private access with changes made dynamically through a software portal (virtual/shared option) or less flexibly via work order (dedicated server option). The private cloud opportunity centers on using a set of servers virtualized, with server and storage resources managed as a virtual resource. Security is another aspect here. A private cloud is a solid match in cases where security is mandated (for compliance with regulations such as HIPAA and PCI), or an otherwise top concern.

Hybrid: As mentioned above, the hybrid cloud approach tends to resonate with the majority of companies that already have and operate/manage private infrastructure on premises. However, the action here is best addressed in terms of the ability to move workloads from a customer or prospect’s private cloud (run by the end user) and the public cloud.

Ask Away
Incorporating cloud computing options into a VAR’s portfolio requires first understanding the needs of customers and the options for meeting them.

Start with these questions:

  1. Does the prospect still buy and manage servers? Why?
  2. Where are they located?
  3. How much computing power is needed and (most importantly) what is it used for?
  4. Who accesses the servers and for what purpose(s)?

Though these may seem like basic questions, they help determine which cloud infrastructure is best for the company’s various applications.

The Bottom Line
Before VARs can know their opportunity, they clearly need to know a good deal about their prospect’s server usage. The cloud computing alternatives are available from a growing list of service providers, and for those few with a cloud computing program, making entry into this attractive business is just a matter of asking the right questions.

About the Author
As Vice President at TBI, Ken Mercer oversees all sales and operations within the organization. Ken is also active in leveraging his extensive network services expertise to consult with TBI channel agents on large enterprise opportunities and serves on the advisory boards for many of TBI’s service providers. You can contact Ken at or connect with him on LinkedIn here.