The Five Business Models of Cloud Providers

May 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm 3 comments

From affiliates to developers, there’s a place for many partner types in cloud computing

Beth Vanni – Director, Market Intelligence

In the channel ecosystem of Cloud Computing, we see five distinct partnering roles emerging that are critical to the effective deployment of public or private cloud technologies. Interestingly enough, these roles all exist in non-cloud technology deployment, and have more in common with the models used today to support premise-based, client/server solutions than differences. This supports our assertion that basic partner reach, pre-sales skills and post-sale integration will be as (if not more) important than ever as the industry moves to services-based technology models.

1 Sales Agent/Affiliate – Affiliates are most often entities with domain expertise in a given industry or market segment. They typically offer some services adjacent to the functionality of the SaaS or cloud service. In exchange for their sales influence and service referrals, they may take fees from the cloud vendor for new license or service sale. ( boasts over 2,000 of these partners globally.) Sales agents or affiliates typically are not involved in the cloud service transaction or support.

Examples: The Alexander Group and Strategic Contact

2 Reseller– Many vendors moving to cloud offerings from legacy client/server architectures offer the ability for solution providers (SI’s, ISVs, agents) to resell licenses of their software development platform and/or the actual cloud service. Some cloud partners that resell also “white label” the vendor’s cloud offering with other SaaS applications or managed services, integrating them through a software interface and branding the total solution as their own. In other cases, the solution provider does some level of light customization or application development of their own. In that case, the solution provider behaves more like an SI and/or ISV. Reselling SaaS or managed cloud offerings is rarely performed as an independent function, separate from other pre-sales influence and/or post-sale integration or application development services; there is typically not enough financial incentive for the partner reselling the cloud application or service alone. In emerging countries where SaaS and cloud offerings are not as mature and where many vendors don’t have a direct sales presence, a solution provider often does the pre-sales work, resells the application and managed the billing cycle for services.

Examples: Abridge Inc., Perficient, ICS, Inc.

3 Infrastructure/Service Provider – Service providers build out extensive server, connectivity, storage and application hosting capabilities and assets. They manage the deployment through tight SLAs directly to end-users or other solution providers (most notably ISVs) on an outsourced basis. Some are building 100% virtualized infrastructure, ala VMware’s model, or others are offering highly scalable “infrastructure on demand” for other SaaS developers or public and private cloud pilots.

Examples: Rackspace, Amazon, Terremark, Opsource

4 Systems Integrator – SI’s will be able to offer a wide variety of business process consulting and technology architecture and integration services around the cloud. This role blends most commonly with other roles within successful cloud solution providers. Both legacy SI’s with mature ERP and outsourcing businesses, as well as a new breed of pure-play SaaS and cloud integrators that have “grown up” around a particular SaaS platform, are all actively building cloud offerings.

Examples: BlueWolf, Appirio, Cast Iron Systems

5 ISV or software developer – Software developers or ISVs focus on creating unique intellectual property in the form of commercial software applications and support. These players have been the ecosystem “darlings” of many cloud vendors for the last three-to-five years. The major platform companies, including Microsoft’s Azure, Oracle/Sun Fusion Middleware,’s platform, SAP’s Frictionless platform, Google’s App Engine and IBM’s Rational and Websphere middleware are courting innovative software developers to build applications around their core functionality.

Examples: ExactTarget, Altostrat, Xactly Corp.

Read the full commentary on cloud partnering models in our thought leadership brief entitled “The Ecosystem of the Cloud.” We discuss the details around critical support requirements each of these partner types have from their IT vendors.

June Webinar Replay: Ecosystem of the Cloud: The Roles and Revenues of the Next-Generation Solution Provider

Thursday, June 17 – 9:00AM Pacific

From affiliates to developers, there’s a place for many partner types in cloud computing

Bookmark and Share


Entry filed under: Industry Perspective. Tags: , , , , , , .

How are Solution Providers Making Money in the Cloud? IBM Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is: Major Investments In Simplicity

3 Comments Add your own

  • […] Here’s Amazon’s brief about the various solution provider business models that will “matter” as we move to the cloud model of computing. This second document provides a look at what vendors are thinking about from a partner support standpoint. Vanni has some more succinct comments in her blog. […]

  • 2. Tim Cuurran  |  May 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Beth – Good to see you addressing this issue. I agree completely that the channel will continue to be important in a cloud envireonment. This was a theme I struck at our recent Investor Conference in NYC and the point was well taken by the analysts. The only thing you left out was the continued strategic role for distributors in the cloud. The distributors will continue to provide broad reach, multi vendor integration, technical support and credit (with new consolodated monthly billing capabilities). Several of the distributors have announced recent cloud offerings and I believe you will see continued investment in this area. Give a call if you would like to discuss. All the best, Tim

    • 3. Beth Vani  |  May 24, 2010 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks, Tim. I agree that distribution can continue to play a meaningful role in helping cloud services come to market through solution providers. But, I think the vendor community, again, is doubtful or at least unclear today about this. I think the distributors, other than Ingram with their Seismic platform, have been a little light in their proactive services announcements here. I had a call with Joe Burke from Arrow after their recent announcements, and of course their offerings are new or not yet announced. I think this is a perfect opportunity for distributors to invest in their own P.S. teams to augment those of partners, provide billing/invoicing automation to MSPs and Saas providers, continue to offer technical training to integrators, offer business transition training to help channel partners make the business/economic model migration to a services-based model, etc., etc., etc.

      I heard the analyst conference in NYC went well. Congrats on another successful event and continuing to evangelize the role of distribution!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 27 other followers

Recent Posts

Share This Blog



May 2010
« Apr   Jun »

%d bloggers like this: