Channeling the Cloud

For Microsoft Partners, Opportunity in Cloud Variety

The future of computing will involve some combination of public clouds, private clouds or hosting facilities managed by third parties. Whatever the deployment type, there's a role for partners.

Building and operating hybrid and private clouds represents one of the biggest new opportunities for partners of all types. It's no longer a question of if your customers will move to this new model of computing and application deployment, but when and in what stages.

Many solutions are already moving to this model of computing. One example is business continuity/backup and recovery. Traditional suppliers such as CommVault, Nasuni and Veeam, among others, are rolling out solutions that use Microsoft Azure and other cloud services as a backup target, eliminating the need for an alternate site, but also simplifying the architectures for making data available. Microsoft also offers its own solution with the StorSimple appliance.

This month's feature about the coming of Azure Stack describes an attractive new way for partners to build, deploy and manage private and hybrid clouds based on the same software that runs the public Azure cloud. Compelling as it may sound, it's not something that you can deploy today -- or this year, in all likelihood. That's why CGI, which offers both cloud hosting and private cloud deployment, has deployed the recently launched Dell Hybrid Cloud System, which runs the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS) based on Windows Azure Pack (WAP). Hewlett Packard Enterprise also offers a CPS converged compliance. By using Dell's turnkey system, CGI doesn't have to worry about configuration, software updates, patches or other tasks associated with buying hardware and deploying the WAP solution.

The decision to go with the Dell-engineered converged cloud system, co-developed with the Microsoft Azure team, lets providers such as CGI deploy them in their hosting operations or on their customer premises. James Pilgrim, director of consultancy services at CGI, believes the buzz about Azure Stack is a distraction. CGI also is comfortable that WAP will have a reasonable upgrade or migration path to Azure Stack for customers that need or require it down the road. But workloads and applications CGI has targeted for the existing WAP running on the Dell system are suited for the multiyear lifecycle of the offering.

"At the end of the day, WAP provides numerous Infrastructure as a Service features. If there are features that Azure Stack has that a client really wants or really needs, then those are the cases we'd evaluate upgrading," Pilgrim says. "But when Windows Azure Pack does what's needed and the support length of time fits within the contract, there's no reason we can't stay on it for the time being."

Whatever solution type you offer, it's important to see the big picture. Traditional datacenters aren't all disappearing overnight, but many new and existing workloads and applications will be deployed either in a pure public cloud scenario, on-premises running atop private cloud software, or in a hosting facility you or another third party operates and manages. In many cases, it will involve any combination of three of these models. The good news is there's a role for partners in all three deployment types.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.