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Understanding the cloud service broker model

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Cloud Sherpas to expand partnerships beyond Google, Salesforce in 2013

As part of our Q&A series with cloud providers, Michael Cohn, co-founder of Cloud Sherpas, says 2013 will be all about going 'deeper' into the cloud.

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Understanding the cloud service broker model

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Customers are unlikely to source all their IT services from a single cloud provider, so it follows that cloud resellers and integrators should be diversifying their partnership portfolios as well.

Cloud solutions provider Cloud Sherpas is taking this to heart. The Atlanta-based company started off as a Google Apps reseller in 2008, expanded its international footprint through a flurry of acquisitions, and rocketed to Google Enterprise Partner of the Year in 2011. Upon merging with Salesforce.compartner GlobalOne earlier this year, Cloud Sherpas expanded into cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM). And as 2013 begins, it's looking to extend its reach even further into new geographic regions and horizontal markets.

It doesn't really matter if we're a cloud provider or a bartender; our job is always to listen to the customer and provide them with stellar service.

Michael Cohn,
co-founder and senior vice president of marketing, Cloud Sherpas

As part of our year-end series of Q&As with cloud market leaders and innovators, Michael Cohn, co-founder and senior vice president of marketing at Cloud Sherpas, reflects on the cloud market in 2012 and shares what the future holds for his company in 2013.

What can we expect from Cloud Sherpas in 2013?

Michael Cohn: It's really going to be all about continued growth. We're seeing great interest from our customers in other Software as a Service (SaaS) products that support their IT environments -- to support their HR [human resources departments] and so forth -- and so we expect this rising tide is going to raise all ships. But for us in particular, we're going to be investing heavily in accelerating that growth.

You can expect to see both organic and inorganic investments from Cloud Sherpas in some key markets -- expansion into some new geographic areas and also additional [SaaS products] going beyond the core strategic partnerships that we have today. Ultimately, 2013 is really going to be about winning big deals in these new markets that we choose to enter.

I don't want to name names, but we're looking at the other strategic SaaS partnerships. We're looking right now at providers that have applications to support IT environments. We're looking at applications that have a specific focus around HR. We're looking at other applications in the cloud that are specifically built around financials and [enterprise resource planning], and we're going to be evaluating all of these as we make decisions.

Our customers, who are now in the cloud, are telling us that they're comfortable with the cloud, they want to do more in the cloud and they want to go deeper with the existing cloud products that they have from us, Google and Salesforce. We're seeing other [business units] interested in the cloud as well.

In terms of the new partnership opportunities, are you looking at providers that would complement the Google and Salesforce.com product suites?

Cohn: That's exactly right. It's all about complementing Google and Salesforce. We're not looking to bring anything onboard that would be viewed as competitive. Our strategy has always been to find best-of-breed solutions in each category and bring them to our customers.

Looking back on 2012, what was the most important lesson you learned this year?

Cohn: At our core, Cloud Sherpas is in the services business. We certainly also are a cloud aggregator, but truly at our core we're in the services business and so it doesn't really matter if we're a cloud provider or a bartender; our job is always to listen to the customer and provide them with stellar service. And so in 2012 we listened to our customers and through deep collaboration with our existing partners at Google and Salesforce, we helped to bring the cloud to life for all of our customers.

Cloud is more than a technology delivery model. We think it's the most important business innovation in the last 20 years, and we're really excited to be a part of the transformation that's going on with our customers.

Do you have a New Year's resolution for Cloud Sherpas? That is, is there anything that you might do differently in 2013, or are there any milestones you hope to achieve?

Cohn: I'm not one for making resolutions, but we believe every day is a new opportunity to learn something. In 2012, we learned a lot about why companies were moving to the cloud and what they want from their partners and what they want from their providers, and in 2013 we expect to see that our customers are going to want more. They're going to want to go wider and they're going to want to go deeper with respect to their cloud adoption.

Read the rest of our Q&A series

What role will software-defined networking play in NTT America's cloud?

In anticipation of that, as I mentioned earlier, we're planning to thoughtfully add some strategic partners to the offerings that we're able to bring to market and to go deeper with our existing partners.

For example, in our Google business unit, we often use the term "going more Google." We hear Google talking about "going Google," and we talk about going more Google. This is really starting to resonate in our customer base. Our enterprise customers are now viewing Google beyond what they initially purchased -- which was messaging and collaboration systems -- and they're viewing Google as a platform for enterprise computing.

So, we expect to see similar trends in the Salesforce ecosystem. We expect to see aggressive growth in that business unit as well as in our Google business unit, and hope to put up some really big numbers again in 2013.

There's so much that happened in this market in 2012, but is there something that you feel deserved more coverage by the media or something that was overlooked?

Cohn: I don't know if it was necessarily missed or if it's something that we're expecting to see a whole lot more [discussion] of next year, but there's the development of the CSP market that we're in -- the cloud solution provider market. I think the traditional system integrators are on notice.

The world is changing and mission-critical applications are moving into the cloud. Customers want partners that have been there and done that, and this is a mega trend in a multibillion dollar market that will continue to grow very rapidly next year; and as a result, consolidation is going to be a big story next year. We're already seeing bigger cloud solution providers merge with smaller firms to grab a greater share of high-profile markets like IT services, CRM, email or collaboration. So, in general, I think this is a major topic to watch as we enter next year.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, Site Editor.

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Understanding the cloud service broker model
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