September 4, 2018

How to Compete With Cloud Giants


By Chris Wiedemann
Consultant
immixGroup, An Arrow Company

 

Members of the IT industry have heard so much about cloud over the last few years that they would be forgiven for being sick of the word. Despite the overexposure, many questions remain. What does cloud mean strategically for the channel? How do companies best position themselves amid shifting market conditions?

In a recent Arrow Market Intelligence webinar, I attempted to answer such questions. Basically, it comes down to two things: specialize and complement.

Market Consolidation
The word that best describes the trajectory of the cloud market is consolidation. We see it most clearly down the technology stack in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), where there has been a significant market consolidation towards the hyperscale providers. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) like Amazon, Microsoft and Google provide infrastructure and platform services at enormous scale and account for more than 50 percent of the global IaaS and PaaS markets.

We also see some consolidation of market leaders in the Software as a Service (SaaS) space, although given the wide range of products that fall under this umbrella, the market is a little more resistant to centralization.

What Trends Mean to the Channel

The question I get into more detail on in my webinar is what do these trends mean for us in the traditional IT channel? How do we compete in a cloud-based world, especially as more traditional infrastructure and on-prem software licenses migrate to hybrid cloud?

Smaller CSPs can’t compete head to head with the hyperscale providers in the markets where they’ve already started to establish competitive dominance. It’s going to be very difficult for non-hyperscale CSPs to take on behemoths like Amazon or Microsoft in IaaS or PaaS, simply because of the full-stack capabilities those companies can already bring. It simply wouldn’t be economically viable to build a competitive technology.

Moreover, it’s increasingly hard to recommend building out a solution that runs parallel to the hyperscale CSPs without engaging with them at all – for example, a SaaS offering hosted in a proprietary data center or some other non-public cloud environment.

One of the keys to any cloud strategy moving forward is going to be strategic engagement and even partnership with the hyperscale providers. Those companies are huge, and almost by definition can’t be experts in everything. While cloud is transformational in a lot of ways, it doesn’t mean total change – we still see a need for deep industry knowledge and territorial specialization by resellers and partners.

Customer Relationships Are Key Differentiators
The things that give you a competitive leg up right now – territory knowledge, customer relationships, the ability to recommend, build, and deliver unique solutions, will still be critical in the cloud channel. They also point to the necessary role the channel will play in this world – working around the hyperscale providers’ capability gaps to tailor those offerings to the unique requirements of your customers.

This is especially true if you work in highly regulated industries, or any vertical with unique needs – such as healthcare – where your territorial knowledge will allow you to point out the shortcomings in the hyperscale offerings and help address them. The way to stay competitively viable here is to think of yourself as a consulting partner and trusted advisor in the cloud. You know what your customers need, and you know the challenges that moving to the cloud will present them. If you can bridge that gap, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself company competitively.

To learn more about trends driving the cloud market, your role in them, and how Arrow or Market Intelligence can help, view my webinar, “Cloud Market Trending Up: Where Do You Fit In?”