Lee James on what he thinks will be the two biggest trends for partners next year: a channel return to private cloud, and pay as-you-go 'service as-a-service'
Rackspace's CTO has called on partners to tke advantage of hybrid cloud's momentum by engaging in a more flexible approach to services.
Speaking at VMworld Barcelona this week, Lee James (pictured) said the vendor's recently launched service block approach is a direct response to what he sees as the biggest challenge for end users: the persistent skills gap.
"This approch of completing three to five-year contracts with big SIs, or six weeks to get a professional services engagement just right is completely changing.
"Our customers are now coming to us asking for an expert as a service on demand. They might say ‘I want some cost optimisation for my private and public cloud estate, but I only want you to do it for this month'. Or, ‘I want a particular architect but I need him to turn up tomorrow and I need him to be skilled in these specific capabilities'."
"They want the immediacy and they want the flexibility."
James anticipates Rackspace's "bolt-on approach" - modelled on mobile phone companies that offer additional services without customers needing to commit to long-term contracts - will be copied by other vendors.
"We've launched five service blocks across our public cloud and we're coming to market with service blocks on VMware as well. I see a real move towards these kind of subscription services. I think it'll be a big trend next year."
Rackspace's EMEA channel boss John Coulston calls it "service as-a-service".
James added: "It's ideal for when one of their customers require a discreet piece of work. That's where a service block may fit in incredibly well. An architect as-a-service on demand, for instance."
In the summer, Rackspace EMEA channel boss John Coulston told our sister site CRN that the firm is on a mission to change its perception in the channel.
Four months on, Coulston claims that there has been some headway, but grants that it has been incremental; "by a point or two".
Currently, the channel makes up 10 percent of Rackspace's revenues in EMEA.
Coulston said that the short-term aim is to increase that by "double-digits".
He pointed to Rackspace's recent channel-friendly service launches.
"We have our service block play and we're happy to be one of a handful of VMware AWS enabled partners - that's big news for us this week."
Both Coulston and James said they see the market's growing commitment to hybrid cloud as one of the biggest trends and growth opportunities for their partners.
"We have five major cloud providers now. With the introduction of Alibaba recently, we have all the private cloud providers and all the application capabilities that are coming through.
"So, we want to enable the channel by offering our skills. We have a wide breadth of experience internally. We manage 250,000 customers today, and we're offering our skills back to the market on a pay as-you-go basis," James said.
When commenting on his partner's embrace of hybrid cloud services, James added that he welcomes an end to the "all-in" approach to public cloud that dominated previous years.
"You know what I'm really looking forward to next year? Private cloud is going to be cool again," he said.
"And I'm thinking: finally!' We had this public cloud love-in, and people have now gone, ‘You know what, I think that hybrid cloud thing that someone mentioned a few years ago might actually be the right thing that we need.'
"I'm looking forward to private cloud being given an invite back to the party!"