Cloud, by its very nature, is all about innovation. The large cloud players are constantly launching new products, new services and new tools onto the market, which at times, struggles to keep up.
Partners who work with large cloud vendors such as AWS, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce and so on, note that while there is innovation aplenty in the tools being developed, there are areas where innovation is lacking - particularly when it comes to both the customer and the partner experience.
As such, cloud vendors need to think not only about their technical innovations, but also about the innovative experiences they can offer their partners and customers.
Ahead of Channel Partner Insight's Innovation Awards, we spoke to cloud players across the US to find out what their take is on the innovations in the cloud marketplace today and where they would like to see improvements.
When it comes to Microsoft Azure, the good news is that the market is getting much more hardy, according to Amy Rutt, president of Alexandria, VA-based MSP and Microsoft CSP, Ciracom.
Rutt notes that we are seeing "a very early understanding" of all the third-party applications becoming part of the Microsoft cloud fabric. In particular, the market is witnessing two things: one, a large number of companies working hard to get their services within the Microsoft marketplace; and two, Microsoft evolving into "a Salesforce-type model".
In terms of innovation, both Microsoft and these partners need to show the marketplace what they can offer, Rutt told CPI. She notes that it's an "absolute pure partnership between the two entities. And because Microsoft will get revenue off of them being in the marketplace, they're wanting to put those services and licensing inside of their cloud so that it's also easier to buy. So when you go into buy it as a CSP, for example, you know that you're helping provide a fuller solution for your customer".
Other Microsoft partners cite governance recommendations and cost optimization recommendations as innovations coming out of Microsoft - things that previously were left to third-party vendors to provide, Chris Joseph, VP of product marketing and management at Redmond, WA-based master MSP NetEnrich, told CPI.
"Now they are offering it natively through their portals and we are able to pick those up," Joseph explained. "So when we deploy either to our partners or to our customers, we also have an offering by way of a product platform based on AI and ML, where we can take all these recommendations and optimization recommendations that Microsoft provides and add value."
What that means for firms like NetEnrich is a much cheaper offering that negates the need to invest in other tools, meaning an improved bottom line, Joseph notes.
Other cloud vendors are also bringing innovative customer experiences to market. Google Cloud has developed some in-house professional services, alongside working with CSP partners, to "go and prove on a small scale something very ambitious that they're willing to do for not a lot of profit", Tony Safoian, president and CEO at CSP SADA told CPI.
The end goal, he said, is to lower the barrier of entry for customers who want to explore a feature, a function, an application or an approach to technology that is completely new to them.
In practice what this means is a significant investment from a pre-sales engineering standpoint, an account management standpoint and a strategic standpoint, Safoian added.
"I think Google Cloud certainly has started to discover that, and it's probably common across the other providers as well. It's just not like the old days when customers were buying a known thing… The buying motion and premise are just a completely different ambition for our customers."
While the cloud players have been working on these innovations over the last 12 months, there is plenty more that partners would like to see them doing. Microsoft partners, for example, say they would like to see more industry-specific solutions, as well as better integrated tools.
"Microsoft is obviously innovating at an unbelievable lightning pace, but the details in different solutions that need to be architected per industry, I'm not seeing a lot of innovation there yet. I think they think they're innovating, but I'm not seeing it yet," Rutt told CPI.
Joseph, meanwhile, said that though Microsoft already offers a lot of tools, at times they are "very poorly thought through". He would like to see innovation around the customer experience and service experience in Microsoft's product offerings
"There's a lot of room for innovation in the experience in their collaboration offerings, for example," he pointed out.
Another area lacking innovation from the cloud vendors is marketing, according to Sofian. While he "chalks it up" to the cloud still being relatively new and, by nature, innovative, it's an area that is lacking when it comes to innovation, he told CPI.
"I would say that across the cloud vendors there's not the level, broad-based air cover that there is in other places. Awareness is still much, much better than a few years ago, but I just don't see consumer-grade kind of awareness. I don't think there's a cohesive, well-coordinated approach to help us make an even bigger impact. They are operating somewhat standalone components of their go-to-market strategy around awareness and pipeline building. I think that's been a challenge."
Be sure to tell your cloud innovation story to the rest of the channel by entering the CPI Channel Innovation Awards! Entries deadline is this Friday, September 27th at 5pm ET, so don't delay!
Some say performance, others say money but it may be systems and processes that carry the day
Cheryl Cook responds to claims from competitor that legacy vendors aren't investing enough in innovation and how it plans to adapt to an evolving server market
Distributor's head count moves past 400 with latest buyout
Vendor appoints two co-CEOs as long-time leader steps down