Born in the Cloud Analysts
I recently read about a new report from an analyst firm claiming the North American cloud computing industry would reach 130 billion USD by 2024. It is hard not to find similar stories on the web, and they are popping up more and more frequently. What is my issue with this report? There isn't a single mention of managed services or MSPs to be found.
Now, before you think I've gone off the deep end, let me explain what is happening here.
Born in the Cloud
Soon after the global economy crashed in late 2008, the term "Born in the Cloud" was created to define startup IT companies who were reselling public cloud applications. The born in the cloud phrase came to mean light touch IT management, with the predominant value being billing, sales, and very minimal technical support (after all, the application vendor's all support their technology).
I remember a lot of MSPs complaining about these cloud companies because they were diluting the waters and confusing customers. Much of the MSP pushback on cloud computing can be attributed to this community of companies.
Another reason MSPs did not care for the born in the cloud movement is the omission of alternatives to the cloud. What I mean is born in the cloud providers will offer one solution: whatever their menu of cloud applications happens to be. MSPs have long ago learned that providing value to customers means giving them choices. I believe a lot of MSPs (even those who offer public cloud) are successful precisely because they give their customers options about how to structure their IT resources.
Born in the cloud analysts
These cloud reports are not troubling because they show growth in cloud computing. To the contrary, this is good news. These reports are concerning because they misinterpret why there is growth in the cloud and the role MSPs have in shaping that same cloud growth.
A born in the cloud analyst (I just made this phrase up) looks at the cloud marketplace as predominantly made up of cloud authors (companies who have created a cloud application) and they ignore the involvement of channel companies (i.e., MSPs) who are necessary components in the growth in the first place.
I do not blame these analysts for their singular view of the cloud and what it represents. I honestly think they don't know any better. What is essential is that MSPs recognize the omission and see it not as an accurate representation of their role in the channel and in advising customers about cloud computing.
The same "misconceptions" existed decades ago about MSPs and hardware. The argument went like this: if you are an MSP, then you are not "selling" hardware. This claim ultimately was proven false because even MSPs who do not resell hardware or software in the traditional sense, nevertheless do influence their customers and have tremendous ability to determine the outcome of end-user purchasing habits. The same is true of cloud computing.
MSPs who do not resell public cloud applications or IaaS, still have a significant influence on their customers when it comes to which choices those customers make. Not only are these cloud purchasing decisions influenced by the MSPs, the MSPs often are involved in projects for deployment and management of that cloud (or at least the users and data residing on the cloud).
Take what I say carefully but honestly. Cloud computing is a reality and everyone, even the analysts, are fully invested in it. What MSPs cannot do is underestimate their worth and influence when it comes to the sales and usage of cloud computing.