Partner uncertainty around Microsoft's decision to take Azure direct will allow competitors to exploit the opportunity and gain more share in the cloud market, according to Canalys.
The analyst predicted that this year will see partners handle an increasing share of the cloud business, particularly in the areas of services, deployment and integration.
Canalys predicts that these trends will cause cloud service providers to increase their focus on rewarding those partners with specialist expertise around specific cloud deployments, as well as those that are developing niche services on top of cloud and those driving customer adoption of cloud.
"Cloud service providers need to build trust with channel partners and not implement initiatives or change terms and conditions that drive more direct sales," said Alastair Edwards, chief analyst at Canalys.
"Microsoft is the current dominant force in the channel for cloud services, through the continued expansion of its Cloud Solution Provider programme.
"But as it offers more direct purchasing options to Azure customers through its new Microsoft Customer Agreement, its partner strategy faces increased scrutiny.
"This creates an opportunity for rivals to exploit growing uncertainty among Microsoft's partners."
The global cloud market saw spending grow 45 per cent to exceed $80bn (£62bn) for the full-year 2018, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) remaining dominant in the space for the fourth quarter, while Microsoft Azure grew 16 per cent year on year to retain second place.
The top five was rounded out by Google, Alibaba and IBM.
Matthew Ball, Canalys principal analyst, said that cloud infrastructure services drive the core components needed for an organisation's digital transformation.
"Market dynamics have changed over the last 12 months, with more businesses opting for multi-cloud and hybrid-IT environments to use the strengths of different cloud service providers and deployment models dependent on application and data requirements, compliance, cost and performance," he said.
Edwards added that cloud vendors are placing greater emphasis on building their channel programmes in order to support smaller partners who are capturing an increasing amount of SMB clients.
"Canalys expects the share of cloud business handled by or with channel partners to increase in 2019," he said.
"Cloud service providers must therefore find ways to improve their own differentiation to partners and raise the maturity of their channel models."
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