The cloud as a computing concept is relatively new, though it had its roots in central database management that’s been around before the personal computer. Still, outsourcing not only data storage but also applications and customer management technology is a new concept that’s rushing forward with the kind of intense inevitability that has a great many technology pundits excited (and sometimes I think we get excited just to get new buzzwords and new acronyms) and more than a few businesses confused.
Vendor relationships require work, and vendor relationships that are technology based require even more work. While individual projects (when done right) will include a thorough needs assessment and a path toward meeting those needs within budgetary guidelines, when a relationship will be ongoing and mutually reliant, several issues present themselves. A cloud company such as a customer and relationship management hosted application or even hosted email like Google Apps is in the business of developing software, not handholding. A company that offers financial services isn’t looking to learn the ins and outs of a piece of software but instead to gain from its functionality.
We can think of cloud software a bit like we might a car. Sure, we need to learn to drive it and sure, we ought to know how to fill it with gas, check the oil, and keep the tire pressure up. Except for enthusiasts, though, none of us want to be to the mechanics. Businesses are a lot like us. They want to use the software and are ready and willing to perform basic minor maintenance, but they don’t want to waste company time and resources dedicating heavy intellectual resources into the process. So, while value added resellers can certainly tout the advantages of cloud products, they have to do so with a basic understanding in mind, that the technology is no more the business of the consumer than a car is an end in and of itself for most people.
All of these factors lead me to agree with a number of experts in the field who believe VARs will soon become CSBs, Cloud Service Brokerages—integrating cloud computing services together to fit the needs of a particular business and helping that business get what they want, to move from point A to point B, just the thing I want to get from my truck.